How do Americans feel about foreigners?

Successful integration? Immigration to Germany and the USA

Approximately one million immigrants will be naturalized to the United States this year. In contrast, depending on the estimate, there are between eleven and twelve million people who live illegally in the USA. A non-partisan naturalization reform, supported by US President George W. Bush, would have given them an opportunity to gain legal status in the US. But it failed last year in the US Congress. "The USA doesn't have all the answers either," says American migration scientist Amanda von Koppenfels.

Berlin Wall to Mexico

Like the Berlin Wall: a mile-long fence on the border with Mexico

Because while immigration reform is on hold, a new reality for illegal immigrants is being worked on along the 2000 mile American-Mexican border. A meter-high border fence should make it impossible to illegally move from one country to another in the future. The fence is already 284 miles long, and by the end of this year it should be 670 miles.

It is still attractive for Mexicans to immigrate to the USA: Their cheap labor is needed. Nobody would come into the country to be unemployed. For Amanda von Koppenfels, this kind of demarcation also brings back unpleasant memories. "This new Berlin Wall in our country is a huge mistake," she says. She compares American immigration policy with the ban on recruiting guest workers in Germany in 1974. "Only when you close the borders do people stay and then you have an integration problem."

Crucible with bottom right

Immigration to the USA has not always been problem-free in the past either. For example, at the end of the century before last, the Chinese were not allowed to immigrate to the United States for a short period of time. And in the late 1930s, when the economy was doing poorly, immigrants were generally not welcome.

But despite these phases, the USA understood and sees itself as a country of immigration, as a melting pot of nations. Anyone born in the USA is American. Anyone who speaks English and is committed to American laws and history is one of them. In Germany, on the other hand, the right of parentage applies. Only those who have German parents are German, even if they were born in Germany.

Immigration country with a heart

The Federal Republic of Germany has also experienced immigration over the past few decades. But it was only eight years ago that Germany was recognized as a country of immigrants, says the Turkish social anthropologist Sebnem Koser Akcapar. She teaches at the Institute for International Migration in Brussels and calls for a rethink in Germany: "First we have to change the mentality, on the one hand on the political level, but on the other hand also on the social level," she says. More Germans would have to come into contact with immigrants and vice versa.

Turks in Germany: Foreigners show that they are welcome

The American migration scientist Koppenfels agrees. In contrast to the USA, Germany is not yet fully convinced and wholeheartedly behind the statement that it is a country of immigration. You don't believe in it yet:

"It's important to make immigrants feel like they belong," she says. "Because why should strangers settle in and adapt if they don't feel like they're welcome."

Club member of the nation

Koppenfels can only understand the dispute over the naturalization test in Germany to a limited extent. She takes such a test for granted, after all, it has existed in the USA for 20 years. "There is almost no club where you can become a member without doing anything," she says. "With a club you have to have a recommendation from someone, or you have to pay fees or you have to explain why you want to be a member. Something has to be done, and becoming a citizen is no different."

Promote minorities

Sebnem Akcapar is also in favor of the tests, but at the same time she is calling for better educational and job opportunities for immigrants, most of whom are of Turkish descent in Germany. After all, the deliberate promotion of minorities worked quite well for Afro-Americans in the United States in the 1950s. "Why can't we introduce this system of equal opportunities for the young generation of immigrants in Germany?" ask her.

The accusation that the Turks in particular do not want to integrate is only valid for a small minority of the older generation. However, she observes a kind of peer pressure in the Turkish communities, which sometimes prevents progressive parents from bringing up their children differently from the tradition.

The scientist says it would also be helpful if Germany did not insist on giving up Turkish citizenship. The US laws also provide for the submission of the other passport, but this regulation is now rarely required.

Free language courses

Amanda Klekowski from Koppenfels

In Germany, it is positive that the state offers those willing to integrate so many opportunities, says Amanda von Koppenfels. Until recently, anyone who wanted to become an American had to take care of private English courses, which can be very expensive. You are now learning new things here in the USA - and you could also look to Germany, according to the American.

The Americans have the impression that the Germans are asking immigrants to give up their own cultural values ​​at the border. That is counterproductive, says von Koppenfels. "Everyone should keep a piece of home."