I promised the other day, that I would deal with one specific argument for why we need to tightly control immigration. It is stated here:
The argument is that mass immigration will distort and destroy our culture. We therefore need to restrict immigration at a level which enables newcomers to assimilate into the host culture. On one level, the argument sounds convincing. However, I want to highlight a few problems with it.
First of all, it doesn’t give enough attention to our history. It assumes a static culture when in fact the British culture has evolved over the years as science, technology, literature, poetry, music etc have developed. This would have happened anyway but of course has been affected by immigration. Our distinctive language owes it roots to Anglo-Saxon migration but also to the arrival of Vikings into the north of England and later the Normans bringing French influences.
Secondly, such an argument might have held greater strength 50-60 years ago before the arrival of mass immigration from the second half of the twentieth century onwards. It is difficult to argue now that immigration proves a challenge to our culture when we already live in a multi-ethnic, multi-cultural context -especially in those large cities that tend to be at the forefront of receiving immigrants.
Thirdly, the argument seems at times to imply that the original host culture was in some way superior to the incoming cultures. On what basis do we make this. Sometimes this is set in terms of Britain being a Christian country, particularly when those migrants are of other faiths, particularly Islam. Yet, it is a long time since Britain could be described in any sense as “Christian” whether or not we as Evangelicals are comfortable with the concept of countries being defined as Christian.
Linked to that, the argument overlooks the point that many of the immigrants who have arrived in Britain have done so exactly because of historical connections through shared European heritage in recent times or through commonwealth and empire. In that respect, their own cultures have been shaped by engagement with Britain through trade and commerce as well as through missionaries. Often times, it has been the immigrant families themselves that have held more tightly to those values and traditions that conservatives would consider British.
For those reasons, I find the argument that we must tightly control immigration in order to protect our culture deeply unconvincing.