The Corner

Caldwell’s Cousins

Cousin-marriage has finally hit the big-time. Christopher Caldwell has an excellent article on the phenomenon in The New York Times Magazine: “Where Every Generation Is First-Generation.” Here are some excerpts:

Marriage is not just an aspect of the immigration problem in Germany; to a growing extent, it is the immigration problem….it is possible that as many as 50 percent of Turks (a word that in common parlance often includes even those with German citizenship) seek their spouses abroad….roughly half a million spouses [have been imported] since the mid-1980′s, which in turn means hundreds of thousands of new families in which the children’s first language is as likely to be Turkish as German.

Binational marriage alarms many Germans for two reasons. First, it allows the Turkish community to grow fast at a time when support for immigration is low. The Turkish population in Germany multiplies not once in a life cycle but twice — at childbirth and at marriage. Second, such marriages retard assimilation even for those Turks long established in Germany. You frequently hear stories from schoolteachers about a child of guest workers who was a star pupil three decades ago but whose own children, although born in Germany, struggle to learn German in grade school. After half a century of immigration, every new generation of Turks is still, to a large extent, a first generation.

The rural Anatolian practice of marrying relatives, usually first cousins, is frequent….between a sixth and a quarter of binational pairings. Domestic violence is high….in the preceding five years, 45 “honor killings’ were carried out by Turkish or Kurdish families in Germany against women deemed to have “strayed,” generally by dating Europeans or adopting Western fashions. It probably doesn’t take more than a few such incidents to intimidate young Turkish women who watch the news or read the papers.

What Ceylan has found is a parallel society growing increasingly elaborate and increasingly entrenched. He calls Hochfeld an “ethnic colony,” rather than just a “ghetto” or “community.” That is, Hochfeld is more than a place where a homesick Turk can find a little corner of Turkey, the way a Japanese immigrant might gravitate to a sushi restaurant in New Hampshire. It is turning into a fully articulated Turkish society, where a Turk has the institutions to lead any kind of Turkish life he chooses. And the life that most Hochfeld residents choose is becoming steadily more traditional….They built institutions that mimicked those of the villages they hailed from.

The old assumption that living in the middle of Western prosperity creates an almost automatic loyalty has been shaken in recent years. German residents, of course, played a leading role in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. The way immigrants marry is a key factor in the way they assimilate or don’t….53 percent of Turkish women ages 16 to 29 would not consider marrying a German “under any circumstances.”…Where such attitudes prevail, self-segregation is inevitable.

Wolfgang Schauble, Germany’s interior minister…admitted that the tendency of Turks to bring spouses from abroad is a “main reason why integration isn’t improving with the passing generations.”…

Certain countries in Europe have placed sharp restrictions on those who marry foreigners. The Netherlands is one of them. In Denmark, citizens under the age of 24 are not even allowed to reside in the country with their non-E.U. spouses. Germany is unlikely to try anything so restrictive. But in March, the German cabinet approved a reform of immigration laws that would raise the minimum age of foreign-born spouses to 18. (Studies show that the lower the age of marriage, the greater the tendency to have an arranged marriage.) Schauble also intends to require a minimum basic language proficiency for a spouse before he or she comes to Germany.

The proportion of binational marriages following the traditional pattern is probably significantly higher than the stats here indicate. Many traditional Turkish villages are “endogamous.” In other words, villagers marry only other villagers–to the point where you can be thrown out of a village if you marry an outsider. So, many binational marriages that do not involve first cousins probably do involve fellow villagers (many of whom are likely somewhat more distant kin).

As I noted yesterday in “Look to Europe,” many European countries are now trying to scale back on family-based chain migration. Clearly, Germany is part of this general movement. The North Carolina case of Hispanic chain migration (see my “Chain, Chain, Chain” post, below) is all-too-reminiscent of what’s happening in Europe. And as I argued yesterday, it is by no means impossible that the United States could soon see significant Muslim chain migration, on the European pattern. That is especially true if the Clinton and Obama amendments pass, but even holds if the current bill, with its eight year acceleration of chain migration, passes.

Read Caldwell and ask yourself if you want the sort of thing he describes happening here. It’s nothing short of madness that we should be encouraging family-based chain migration in the United States at the very moment when the Europeans are attempting to free themselves from its dangers.