This blog is intended to go along with Population: An Introduction to Concepts and Issues, by John R. Weeks, published by Cengage Learning. The latest edition is the 12th (it came out in 2015), but this blog is meant to complement any edition of the book by showing the way in which demographic issues are regularly in the news.

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Thursday, June 30, 2016

Migrant Integration is a Two-Way Street

Three stories popped up in the media today that illustrate the fact that the integration of migrants into society (that which happens when we overcome xenophobia) requires work on the part of the immigrants and the host society both. The first story is from NPR about how a Syrian couple and their kids now living in Seattle are getting along. They are refugees who arrived in the U.S. last November, but of course this involved a longer stay in refugee camps while they were vetted before being allowed to move to the U.S. A local Muslim charity in Seattle is helping to support them (and, of course, life would be easier for them had they not made the earlier choice to have six children). But they are learning English with the expectation of finding employment and fitting in.

The second story if from the NYTimes about a program in Canada that allows individual Canadian families to sponsor a specific Syrian refugee family. 
Advocates for sponsorship believe that private citizens can achieve more than the government alone, raising the number of refugees admitted, guiding newcomers more effectively and potentially helping solve the puzzle of how best to resettle Muslims in Western countries. Some advocates even talk about extending the Canadian system across the globe. (Slightly fewer than half of the Syrian refugees who recently arrived in Canada have private sponsors, including some deemed particularly vulnerable who get additional public funds. The rest are resettled by the government.) 
The fear is that all of this effort could end badly, with the Canadians looking naïve in more ways than one.
The third story--from Switzerland--shows what could go wrong if the immigrants aren't really interested in becoming integrated. In this case the immigrant is from Bosnia, not Syria.
A Swiss court has fined a Muslim man who refused to allow his daughters to attend mandatory swimming classes during school hours, as well school camps and other school events.
Letting his eldest daughter take part in ski camp was incompatible with his faith, said the man. The authorities of the town of St Margrethen in northeastern Switzerland, where the family resides, have clashed with the family – whose members live on welfare – for years.
This is a reminder that migrants--like the rest of us--are just people. Some get along better in life than others. However, getting along in any new environment requires adjustment and the more there is of that, the less xenophobic we all will be. 

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