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Is Successful Integration Possible? Best Practices from North America and Europe

September 15, 2016

Introduction

JOANNE MYERS: Good evening. I'm Joanne Myers, director of Public Affairs programs here at the Carnegie Council, and on behalf of the Carnegie Council I want to thank you all for joining us for this very timely discussion on refugees and migrants.

But before we begin, I'd like to take a moment to thank the Catalonian government, who is the co-sponsor of this event, and especially to thank Guillermo Velasco, Mireia Emilia, and Rozas Simon, who were instrumental in bringing these distinguished panelists together. They will be sharing their views about whether successful integration is possible.

In just a few days, world leaders will meet at the UN for a Summit for Refugees and Migrants. This conference will be an historic opportunity for government leaders from around the world to galvanize action and hopefully agree on a better response to the thousands of migrants and refugees who are seeking a better life.

While a great deal of attention is being paid to the role of national governments and their handling of this humanitarian crisis, it is the actions of cities that may ultimately determine the success of whether these refugees and migrants become an integral member of their new surroundings. While nations deal with existential questions—such as what it means to be a German, a Swede, an American, or a Spaniard—cities deal with issues of existence. Basically, it becomes a question of how services are delivered, for how mayors and local administrators shelter, feed, educate, and employ refugees and migrants can make all the difference as to how they adapt and become productive members of a local community.

While there has been considerable negativity directed towards refugees and migrants, the news is not all bad. For even as corrosive political discourse may impede effective action on a national level, on the municipal level immigrant integration initiatives are flourishing.

In the next 30 minutes or so, our distinguished panelists—who in speaking order are Parvati Nair, founding director of the United Nations University Institute on Globalization, Culture, and Mobility (UNU-GCM), who is based in Barcelona; Oriol Amorós, secretary of equality, migration, and citizenship for the Government of Catalonia; and Nisha Agarwal, the New York City commissioner for the Mayor's Office of Immigrant Affairs. Each will discuss how receiving countries can help refugees and migrants become part of their new community. Their remarks will be based on their experiences in Europe and here at home in New York City. Following their remarks, we will open the floor so that you in the audience can ask any questions that you believe haven't been addressed.

But before we begin, please join me in giving a warm welcome to our panelists and to His Excellency Mr. Raül Romeva, the Catalonian minister for foreign affairs, institutional relations, and transparency, who has asked to say a few words. Ambassador, please.

Remarks

RAÜL ROMEVA: Thank you so much. Good evening, everybody. Thank you for being here.

Let me begin by echoing what Ms. Myers just said. It's a real pleasure not only to share with you these ideas and to be here and to talk about these issues, it is also a pleasure to do it with the panelists that we have here together with us.

It is also a pleasure for me to have the occasion to visit the Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs. That, for someone who is in my case coming from the international relations field, is always a pleasure. It is important to share not only the ideas but also the experiences, the challenges, the proposals that today we are going to put on the table.

Thank you for accepting the invitation as well to our friends: Nisha Agarwal; Parvati Nair, who we know very well because she is actually a co-citizen of Barcelona, living with us in that city; and obviously, Secretary Oriol Amorós, who is responsible in our government for dealing with such an important issue.

I am very glad to be here today, especially just two days before these two big events are going to take place: the United Nations Summit on Refugees and Migrants next Monday, September 19, in the context of the UN General Assembly, which is one thing that for us is going to be a crucial moment, to put together these experiences; and secondly, the Leaders' Summit on Refugees, as it was also mentioned, organized by the U.S. Department of State, with which on these issues we have been cooperating very much.

I am very much pleased as well that Catalonia has been able to contribute to that date because what we are doing is basically being willing to be a part of the world, to be a part of the global debate, to be a part of this open dialogue, that in such cases need to share experiences, to share proposals, and to share efforts. That's exactly why we are doing what we are doing.

Like many other Mediterranean and European countries, Catalonia has been deeply moved, basically, by the current humanitarian tragedy that is happening in the Mediterranean, in which, let's be clear, refugees are not the cause, they are the victims. From that perspective, we keep following with huge concern and with great attention all the developments that are occurring, and with a clear idea: This is not going to be something that we will solve soon and easily. It needs a huge compromise, a greater compromise, a bigger compromise, from all of us, and for doing this we need to be much more committed than we are now.

But this is not enough and we want to take a step further. In many areas, like for instance climate change, the climate action, the promotion of human rights, Catalonia is an international actor. It wants to be an international actor determined to contribute to all multilateral debates, such as, obviously, this one that we are having here today. That is why we are here basically in this meeting, in this room, to engage in a conversation with other actors, and we exchange good practices, to learn from others—that's basic also in such situations; and to contribute with our own know-how. That's why we have one of our main experts also talking to us today. In so doing, we seek to promote an open and rational discussion of the causes of some states' refusal to open their borders to migrants and refugees. That's something that we are very much sorry about.

Indeed, the fear of losing a country's identity and the lack of confidence in a much necessary new multiculturalist model in Europe are discouraging states and decision-makers from taking the bold steps needed to tackle the current crisis. If Catalonia is open and willing to welcome our share of refugees, it is basically precisely because we do not share those fears and because we are confident, we are trusting, in the model of integration that we have been using for years and on which my colleague, Secretary Amorós, will give you more details.

With that, let me reiterate my thanks to our host, our panelists, and all of you for being here today.

Just one final word, to remind you that the Government of Catalonia along with the Migration Policy Institute is organizing a workshop tomorrow in the City University of New York that is going to be dealing with the issue of the Mediterranean dimensions of the refugee crisis. You are obviously more than welcome to join us also in that meeting.

Thank you very much and I hope this is going to be very interesting.

PARVATI NAIR: Thank you, Ms. Myers, and thank you to everyone at the Carnegie Council for this invitation. It is a real honor to be in this place of distinction. I also want to thank the my friends in the Generalitat of Catalonia, Mr. Romeva, and all our colleagues and friends in the generalitat for this invitation. The generalitat supports the work of the United Nations University Institute on Globalization, Culture, and Mobility in a range of ways and indeed has played a vital role in our existence in Barcelona. I really want to say also that both the team at UNU-GCM and myself, we are very grateful also to have this shared synergy of commitment to furthering understandings of migration.

In the eight or ten minutes that I have, what I'd like to do very quickly is to run through from the abstraction, if you like, of an evidence-based perspective, a little bit about the context and need for more understanding and discussion around integration; I would like to respond to this invitation from the Carnegie Council to think about ethics in international affairs by reflecting for a moment on the ethical basis of the idea of integration; and also to look at why integration can be a challenge considering it in light of what we hope will be the outcome of the summit that is coming up; and also looking at some of the evidence that we have gathered from our work in Barcelona.

We know that for many decades, and indeed for much of the latter half of the 20th century, governments have shaped a range of policies that seek to address the perceived challenges of immigration. So we have various models—from assimilation, to multiculturalism, to points-based systems that are based on national demands and priorities—and it has always been a challenge to find ways of managing immigration in ways that somehow do not disturb or alter the primacy of national identity, citizenship, sovereignty, and questions of belonging and values.

For newcomers to a country the results have not always been ideal, and we know that. Refugees often can take an average of about 17 years to rebuild their lives completely. Migrants, many of whom share similar triggers, contexts, and vulnerabilities, can sometimes find themselves entrapped for years in undocumented situations. And even in the case of labor migrants who arrive with the right to work, they can still not have easy access to the rights of citizens and always remain labeled as "others."

With human mobility at an all-time high right now and the range of factors that are displacing entire communities—such as conflict, oppression, poverty, all of which we see in the Mediterranean region—considered within the complexities of global dynamics, the numbers are very stark, and I think integration becomes a very, very serious issue, one among many other serious issues in the panorama of migration.

Just to start with some of the basic figures, we know that there are 244 million international migrants today, nearly half of whom are women. We see that there are 65 million forcibly displaced people, and this is a figure that grows by 34,000 per day, which is an enormous amount. Forty-one percent of these are children, many of whom are deprived even of primary education. And many of these people live and move within or between developing countries. But we of course know that Europe is also currently facing the largest influx of displaced persons at any time since the Second World War.

I think what we have before us is a scenario of disorganized global mobility that is forcing states to jointly confront the question of migration. It has not been a comfortable question, and it still isn't, because it is also set around justified concerns around international and national security, global tension, and the rise of extremism. And, as the Brexit vote in the United Kingdom revealed, the rise of populism is also evident in many places, and immigration control is often perceived by the larger public as a key means to national control or being in control of one's own nation.

So I would argue that what we are seeing is not a refugee crisis, it's not necessarily a migration crisis, even if the people involved are living through critical situations, but we are living through a crisis in the coherent governance of human mobility. And yet, I think if you go to any of the great metropolitan centers of the world, such as this city, it's hard to find anyone who does not really have a migration story of some sort to tell, and this could be either internal or international migration.

When we think about migration, we should also be thinking about urbanization because they are linked phenomena. I think around 3 million people move to urban centers every week. Many of these are within their own countries, but still we are talking about going to live in a city, to build new lives and to integrate. And of course, depending on skill levels, economic factors, and ethnicity, this can be something that happens immediately and smoothly, as indeed it did in my case in Barcelona, and for others who are less fortunate, or do not have papers, it's a much harder battle. Urban centers are often locations of ghettos, marginalized communities, and deprivation, and proof that xenophobia and anti-immigrant sentiment ensure exclusion.

Why, one wonders, is successful integration so hard to achieve? At the core of the idea of integration are two conceptual fears: those of diversity or difference and that of national cohesion. The immigrant or the international migrant poses the challenge of "the stranger in our house," inside the national community. At stake is the question of how states view the "other." This is fundamentally, I think, an ethical question, one that rides on the relation between the collective self and the "other."

Perhaps unfortunately—and I say this as somebody who comes from the humanities—politicians may turn to economists for advice but not often enough to ethics or philosophy. I think that in these xenophobic times of ours—and we have seen incidents this very week across the world where that is in evidence—it may well be worth turning at least briefly to the work of the philosopher Emmanuel Levinas, who argued that the primacy of ethics lay in the encounter with the face of the "other."

Levinas' early work arose against the backdrop of two world wars, fascism, and the experience of having been held prisoner in a camp. For Levinas, recognition and difference, or the recognition of difference, was a transcendent moment of relation with the "other," whereby regard, both in the sense of seeing or perceiving and that of acknowledgement and a re-envisioning of the self in terms of others, opened up a very important pathway for the constitution of the subject. I would argue that the self/other relation is not just important at an individual level, where of course it is, but that it is also something that can be engaged in or committed to at a collective level. And indeed, I would say that it is possibly a very important act in order to orient the collective self.

I think state policies often draw more on the idea of nation-building and on the tenets of nation-building, on an imagination of nation as community that is somehow carved in stone and predefined sovereign—and I think the focus on sovereignty is extremely important—defended by borders and laws that are somehow perceived to be immutable, even though we all know that they are not; and, if integration is difficult to achieve, then it is because this underlying tension that frames the perception of the migrant as "other" is seen as a destabilizing factor. The figure of the immigrant—and this is why I think integration is difficult—as long as they are seen as immigrants sheds light on the value systems that uphold and frame national values and priorities.

So if migration has been a peripheral issue in global debates and policymaking, then it is because it disturbs the centrality of the idea of a nation as a closed community. Migration is bringing to the fore questions of diversity. And most of all, I think, most troublingly perhaps, it reveals society, culture, and national identity as processes that are always open to revision.

The summit that we are about to witness here in New York reflects a growing commitment from the United Nations and its member states to addressing questions of integration. Clearly, I think, and very excitingly for those of us who have been working in this field for a while and always feeling that it's a bit in the dark, I think the process is underway to address human mobility. It's an early step.

I think what is interesting when you look at the wording of the draft outcome document, the New York Declaration, we see that there are tentative, albeit somewhat cautious, steps that are being taken: a commitment to combatting xenophobia, racism, and discrimination. Various steps are laid out. National policies relating to integration and inclusion will be developed, it says, and they will reach out to relevant civil society organizations, including faith-based organizations, the private-sector employers, workers' organizations, and other stakeholders.

Working as I have on behalf of UNU within the Global Migration Group, which our director will be chairing next year, I'm very aware that within the GMG there has been a lot of talk about the role of cities and the key role that cities have played as places of arrival and as places of reception, and also places where the drama of the struggle for survival takes place. So the role that is played by local and sub-state authorities is a key one, and I'm very glad that we are are able to address it here.

I would just like to finish very briefly by saying that at UNU-GCM we carried out a research project last year, entitled "Women of the World: Home and Work in Barcelona," and we sought to identify the key elements that together allowed a range of women—particularly we were looking at women immigrants to Barcelona who came from 16 different countries. I think the evidence that we came up with, which I would like to share because I know that both of you know much more about this than I do, is that learning the language is a vital step forward. Finding work was also vital, because it was finding work that allowed them to begin to rebuild home in this new city. I think what was also interesting was that the ideas of home and nation doubled in their minds. They no longer thought of home or nation as one single place, but indeed they were very flexible and easy with it.

I will just stop there, if I may. Just to finally say that what we also found was that integration works best where there is not just a financial commitment but also an ethical commitment from cities, and that integration is about more than offering access to newcomers—this is vital, you have to offer access—but more than anything else it's also about reworking the guiding values of society as a whole.

I'll stop there. Thank you.

ORIOL AMORÓS: Ladies and gentlemen, I feel honored to be here. I wish to thank the Carnegie Council for hosting this event, the delegation of the Government of Catalonia in New York for all their support, the City of New York and UN University for the interesting ideas they are sharing with us, and all of you sitting here.

After 9/11, bombs in Baghdad; attacks in France, Pakistan, the United Kingdom, Tunis, Madrid, and so many, after thousands of refugees not being welcomed in the cradle of democracy, do you think we still have a proposal to live together? I will do my best to share with you some basic ideas on the integration policies of Catalonia and try to answer this question.

First of all, a few words about the case of Catalonia. Catalonia is a country bordered to the north by France, to the east by the Mediterranean Sea, to the west and south by the rest of the Spanish State. The capital of Catalonia, probably you know better, is Barcelona. We have a population of 7.5 million people, more or less like the City of New York, 37 percent of whom were not born in Catalonia; it's the same percentage as New York, 37 percent. In the period from 2000 to 2010 it was one of the places in the world with the highest growth in immigration, going from 6.2 to 7.5 million people in just a decade.

But it wasn't a temporary phenomenon. The change is deeply rooted. So in the last eight years, for example, a third of all the children born in Catalonia has at least one parent from abroad. Almost a third of every marriage in Catalonia in the last eight years has one of its partners who is a foreigner also. So it is a change deeply rooted.

The scale and the speed of these changes have been enormous and have put our social cohesion under considerable pressure. Some indicators, such as the unemployment rate or such as access at the school, in terms of the origin of people's families, are certainly a cause of concern.

But yet, in Catalonia, after this huge change, there has been no serious social conflict in connection with immigration. Opinion polls on integration are generally positive. Support for xenophobic political options is nearly nonexistent, unlike in Europe. At the present, the vast bulk of public opinion supports taking in refugees from the Middle East conflict. The thesis generally accepted in Europe and in European politics that more immigration leads to more xenophobia is categorically refuted in the Catalonian case. Maybe the conflicts in other countries have not yet been experienced in our country, in Catalonia, because most of the immigrant population belongs to the generation who has immigrated.

However, despite existing difficulties we are aware of, it's also worth mentioning some of the components of our policies which may be useful when thinking about a new model for Europe or a new model in general. What are these components?

  • First, a clear statement: Our goal is full citizenship.
  • Second, the recognition of people's rights from the very beginning.
  • Third, the standardization of public services, the same mainstream services for everybody.
  • Fourth, political and social consensus are crucial in this issue.
  • Fifth—which is more what Parvati talks about and it's more complex maybe—a collective identity proposal which is a balance between diversity and integration.

When we talk about full citizenship as the goal, we mean then in many immigration processes around the world there is a paradox that has led to serious mistakes. While the majority of migrants say that their immigration is temporary—they just come to work, save some money, and then return home—the reality is that most have remained in the host country; in the case of Catalonia almost always.

Here maybe it is worth to remember the case of Germany. Germany received hundreds of thousands of Kurdish and Turkish workers in the 1950s and in the 1960s, and the first policy they designed to integrate those workers was in the 1980s. The first law they wrote was a few months ago, nearly 60 years after the Kurdish and Turkish workers arrived to Germany.

So if the goal is citizenship from the very beginning, you stress right from the outset equal rights and duties and foster engagement with the host society.

What do we mean when we refer to recognition of rights? Catalonia has opted for the recognition and integration of basic rights for all people regardless of whether they are documented or undocumented. We do not defend the presence of people with unauthorized status in the country—I want to be clear on that—but if there are any, they should have basic rights, rights including social services, public health care, and compulsory education. By this standardization of public services we mean that immigrants use exactly the same public services as other citizens, avoiding the creation of specific public services and shunning any measure that might foster segregation.

Any public policy that solely addresses migrants or immigrants is only temporary. But to ensure immigrants can access these public services we have to tailor them toward the mass society. Therefore, this principle of normal access also entails a two-way integration process.

As you may have noticed, political and social consensus is crucial. Integration policies deal with far-reaching changes, and therefore call for a long-term approach. Thinking ahead needs to prevail over the self-interested exploitation of fears, which happens with many politicians—maybe you have heard about the guy who is called Donald Trump. Paraphrasing Nelson Mandela, may your policies reflect your hopes not your fears.

This Catalan consensus has been expressed on many occasions. For instance, in 2008, when the Catalan government and the opposition parties, when the trade unions and business associations, when different administrations and civic organizations signed a national agreement on immigration, the agreement laid the foundations for policies, but also explained to the public, the structural nature of the change we have experienced.

Consensus needs more than just signing an agreement. Consensus has to be nurtured by a system of governance based on co-decision, organized into venues for social participation, cross-sector coordination, and intergovernmental coordination.

The last point I want to mention tonight is one that we think is a basic point of our policies: a collective identity proposal based on a balance between diversity and integration. What lies behind that expression? The experience of cultural uniformity or the indifference to coexistence, as Parvati has said before, has not proven to be very successful. Given this questioning of assimilation and multiculturalism models, academia appears to be leaning towards interculturalism, which is based on liberating diversity, recognizing this diversity, and fostering interaction, rejecting to live separated; make people share the same values. Catalonia, we think, has spent years implementing implicit interculturalism but has never called itself explicitly this way.

If you want to make immigrants into citizens of our country, in simple words, people with equal rights, equal duties, and commitments to the society in which they live, it makes sense to ask them to accept a shared civic identity, which we call, as the Canadians do, a "common public culture," but without giving up their own cultural linguistic or religious identity. Catalans know very well, sadly, exactly how it feels to be rejected, ignored, or made to disappear, which is why we will never ask anybody to stop being who he is or who she is.

What is this common public culture made of? It consists of human rights and democratic values, of course, equality between men and women, freedom of sexual orientation, freedom of religious beliefs or practices, or any democratically established agreement. Yet, it also needs an emotional component of collective belonging. It cannot be only a list of rights and duties. By doing so, it also includes Catalan language and culture which must be shared by everyone as the basis for communication and participation by all of us who are different and want to live together, but which should not supplant the linguistic or cultural identity of anyone.

Based on respect for these shared components, all diversity should be valued and cherished. A policy has been implemented to foster the cultural and linguistic identity of migrants—for instance, by the promotion of association, by teaching the language of immigrants in the schools, by handling religious issues—while at the same time easing their access to Catalonia's culture and language. Diversity/integration—to be balanced on both ingredients is a key point so that it can be seen as a fair deal. In other words, you cannot ask anybody to forget who his or her grandmother is, his or her memory, but you can ask everybody to share some basic tools and rules in order to live together in equality.

Back to the initial point, do you think we still have a proposal to live together? The answer is, yes, we do. We don't ask people to give up their own identity or background, but we do ask everyone to be at the same time also Catalan, and being a new Catalan should lead towards full citizenship.

Thank you very much for your attention.

NISHA AGARWAL: Thank you so much. Thank you to the Government of Catalonia for sponsoring and hosting this conversation, and to the Carnegie Council for having us here.

I'm Nisha Agarwal. I'm the commissioner of the Mayor's Office of Immigrant Affairs in New York City. I'm really delighted to be part of this conversation. I would say, even for New York City, we very much want to be part of this larger global dialogue that is about migration and the refugee crisis, so to speak. And so to have more of these kinds of conversations is one of our goals as well.

For those of you who don't know about the Mayor's Office of Immigrant Affairs, we are essentially a bridge between City Hall and New York City's many diverse immigrant communities. We help to advise on policies and programs that will improve the well-being of immigrant New Yorkers and refugees here in New York City. On this issue of the ethical commitment to living together and to equity, Mayor Bill de Blasio has made a priority of his administration from the beginning this notion of creating a city that is inclusive of all regardless of where we came from, our economic circumstances, and many other factors.

For New York City, we are proud to be a successful example of how integration can take place. We have people in New York City who have come from really every corner of the globe. More than 200 languages are spoken in New York City. Thirty-seven percent of our population was born outside of the United States, and when you add the children of those immigrants, that's 60 percent of New York. So this is who we are. Our neighbors, our colleagues, our friends are from all over the world. We are also home to tens of thousands of adults and young people who have fled from some very violent circumstances from around the world but also just south of our border, and have been really thinking about those issues as well.

So issues of diversity and inclusion are who we are, it's what we have been really from the birth of this city.

I'd like to share with you some examples of the ways in which New York has taken action, especially under Mayor de Blasio's leadership, on this issue of integration.

The first, which I'm very proud of, is a program called IDNYC. It's our government-issued municipal ID. I even brought mine onstage so you can see it.

What is the story behind this ID card? One of the challenges we face here in the United States is that if you are an undocumented immigrant, you cannot get government-issued ID. In New York you can't even get a driver's license. So what does this mean for you? It means you may not be able to get into your child's school because New York requires you to show ID, so you may not be able to pick up your child or participate in parent-teacher meetings. If you are stopped on the street by the police, you won't have identification and you will be arrested and brought into the police precinct. There are so many barriers to freedom within our borders of New York City when you don't have a government-issued identification.

So when Mayor de Blasio came into office, one of his primary goals was to create a municipal identification card that could eliminate some of those barriers. But now, I think, one of the goals that we had with the card was not just to be a special program for the undocumented. We wanted to think about a way to do the two-way integration that was mentioned. How do we make this a card that is appealing to all New Yorkers? So we added a number of different benefits. With this ID card you can get discounts on prescription drugs; you can link it to your library card; you can get access to the public health system; you can even get one year of free membership at 40 different cultural institutions in New York City, like the Museum of Modern Art and the Guggenheim. The reason for this was really to create a program that would be a very big umbrella for the more than 8 million New Yorkers that we have.

We're very proud of what we have been able to accomplish with the card. In less than two years we have more than 850,000 New Yorkers who have signed up. If you live in New York City and you haven't signed up yet, join the effort. That is basically one out of ten New Yorkers who have participated. If I had to roughly describe who that population is, it's two different kinds of migrants. One are immigrants who have come from elsewhere in the world. The other are migrants, like me, who moved from another part of New York State. We're desperate to all show that we are real New Yorkers and we have a membership card in the greatest city on earth, with respect to Barcelona.

One of the things that we did recently was conduct an evaluation of the card to see if what we had hoped we would do we actually accomplished. We were delighted to find a few things.

One, New Yorkers who needed the card really as a necessity have been able to obtain the card and use it to enter their child's school, to interact with law enforcement in a way that makes them feel comfortable, to open bank accounts. Among immigrant New Yorkers, we found that three-quarters of immigrant New Yorkers who have this card feel that it increases their sense of belonging to New York City. That's symbolic. It's not like opening a bank account, but it's deeply, deeply important for the kind of city and culture and community that we are trying to create. That's one important example of the kind of work that we've been trying to do.

Another example is reacting to some of the global forces that are happening and that we are experiencing here in New York City. An important one from a couple of years ago was the significant uptake in the number of unaccompanied minors, unaccompanied children, who are coming over the Mexican border and coming to the United States. They were fleeing incredible amounts of violence in their home towns that actually caused parents and grandparents to say, "It's better to send my child alone elsewhere to safety than to keep them here." Unfortunately, in some parts of the country the response to these children—they were children —was very negative. I'm proud of the fact that in New York the city as a whole was able to come together and respond very differently.

Under the mayor's leadership, we came together and we were able to place health services and educational services in the immigration courts where these kids are coming through. The City Council funded legal services for the children as they came into immigration court, so you don't have a 10-year-old trying to litigate their case in court without the help of a lawyer. And we have private funders who stepped forward and supported funding for mental health services and social support services that these kids would need to acclimate to the new context that they are in. That is the kind of response that we have had in New York City to an issue that is really being experienced pretty acutely by us but also other parts of the country.

And then, finally, I would like to talk about the importance of advocacy as a city and other levels of government. One of the important things that we have done as a city is come together with sister cities around the country, and perhaps in the future around the world, in a coalition called Cities for Action. The goal of this coalition is in some ways about one sovereign, the city, speaking to another sovereign, which is our national government, and saying that our existence, our success, really depends on migration and on the immigrant communities that are working, living, thriving in our cities where we're providing the services. Some of our federal policies are limiting the maximum potential of those people and also of our economies and communities here in the city. That's really what this coalition Cities for Action has done.

We have more than 100 mayors from all around the country who participate in the coalition. They're from big cities like New York and they're also from smaller cities like Dayton, Ohio. They all have a common interest in wanting to promote inclusion and welcome and acceptance of immigrants and refugees from everywhere.

Now, in our experience this approach works. Immigrants are 40 percent of New York City's workforce. A recent study found that one out of three economic dollars, $257 billion, are produced by immigrant workers. So this is very important for our tax base and our economic livelihood, and obviously an important part—just by wandering around the city, you can see a lot of cultural life and vitality.

I will conclude by saying what is hopefully the obvious, which is that we feel here in New York we have a moral obligation to refugees and other migrants who are fleeing some very traumatic circumstances. But also we have a posture of being welcoming to those who may be coming for perhaps less urgent reasons, importance of economics; or, like I said, people like me who just want to seek opportunity and the sort of dream that can happen in a place like New York City.

We're very hopeful of what might come out of the gathering of world leaders that's happening here in this city. But we shall see. I think it has to be an ongoing conversation that will happen across borders and between cities.

So to answer the question of whether we have a proposal to live together, as we would say here in New York, "Si, se puede." Thank you.

Questions

QUESTION: This question was inaudible. In brief, the questioner was concerned about open door policies for migrants and about burquas. She feared that allowing them to be worn in public places could be a security issue, as the wearer could conceal weapons underneath the burqua.    

ORIOL AMORÓS: You said on policies that if you have 27 percent unemployment you have a policy of open doors. I want to ask you if the policies decide how many people are coming or not. For example, we received 200,000 people in the year 2006 and with the same law, with the same borders, the same policemen at the border, and the same helicopters flying in Barcelona—all the same—in 2011 we lost population. So who really decides who is coming and who is not, laws or the labor market?

What is sad about our case is that the laws' effect really fielded reality. This is sad, because we have had a policy—not an open-door policy—we have had a policy with very closed doors. What happens when you have a labor market asking for people and the door is closed, the people come anyway but through the window. That is what happened, not in Catalonia, in Spain.

So the main issue and the main problem of our immigration politics is that the reality and the legality are two really different things. Probably around 70 percent of our migrants have passed the period of their immigration process illegally. That is a huge problem for the whole society and for the people who are undocumented.

The second question about the burqa—in my talk, I talked about a model which is balanced between integration and diversity. You asked me for a concrete case, and I thank you for this question because it allows me to explain what this theoretical model is in the reality, in the practice. I will make it as fast as I can, but this is a complex question.

There was a controversy at the schools because there was one school that said, "We don't allow people to come to the school with hijabs." So the government has to discuss this issue, how we balance integration and diversity when a school says to a girl that she cannot go to school with a hijab. We wrote in a paper, and then after that we made an act and an instruction to the school: "Which things are to be shared and compulsory to be shared and which things are people's freedom because they belong to the right to diversity? What is integration? What is diversity?"

We said: "The right to education, we have to share that. Nobody can come and say, 'I have a cultural exception because girls have to leave the school at 12.' We cannot accept that. There is no cultural exception there. It is something we have to share." In the school, in that case we said there is a right to education.

Second, the curriculum is the same for everyone. You cannot come to the school and say, "I don't believe in evolution because I am a creationist, so my children would study a different curriculum." No. The curriculum is the same for everyone. Or you cannot go to the school and say, "My girl will not go to the swimming pool if learning to swim is in the curriculum." The curriculum is shared for everybody.

Security issues: You know, for example, the Sikhs have to wear a knife, which is called a kirpan. Well, we have a Sikh population in Barcelona, in Catalonia, and we ask children not to wear a knife in classrooms. You cannot bring a knife into a classroom. So we talked with the community and we said: "Well, if the children leave the knife in the director's office, can they go to heaven?" We made an agreement. We think that the Catalan Sikhs can go to heaven just leaving the knife in the director's office and after school they take the knife again. A small knife of course.

The fourth thing was communication. As human beings we communicate through our faces. We have, I think, around 50 muscles here that permit me to know who is bored now and who is interested and who is near sleep. So children in the schools have to communicate.

So a hijab, is that a problem to obtain your right to education? No. You can learn all the curricula with a hijab, of course. Is it a problem of security? No. Is it a problem to communicate? No. So what is the problem with the hijab? We have no problem with the hijab. It is not the same in France, as you may have heard.

But the burqa is a problem because I need to know if a child is happy or not. He or she has the right to communicate. Probably you say, "Wow! So the difference is a piece of robe?" Yes. But when you make a policy which is a balance between integration and diversity, you have to achieve a deal.

The deal in that case was on that point. So we said: "At the schools, if you want to wear a hijab, it is not a problem; it's your right to diversity. But if you wear a burqa"—the burqa isn't a reality in Europe. People talk about burqas, but there are no burqas in Europe. It is the niqab. "If you wear a niqab, we don't accept it, sorry, in schools. In the street it is another thing, okay."

It is a practical case I think.

QUESTION: My name is Larry Bridwell and I teach international business at Pace University.

I have a question for Professor Nair because I was quite intrigued by the research that you mentioned, that those who learn the language are those who are most successful in migration. It brought to mind what happened in Britain recently, and since you work at the University of London, I wanted to pose this to you: With 700,000 Poles going into Britain and 300,000 Hungarians, was it unfair to Britain compared to the rest of Europe to take in so many migrants who happen to have learned English? I would like you to comment on whether the rest of Europe took advantage of the United Kingdom and that perception may have led to the Brexit vote?

PARVATI NAIR: Thank you for that question. London—we were just commenting on some of the similarities, I think, between New York and London. London, as you know, is a city which has more than 300 languages spoken every day, by people who are in various different ages and stages of the immigration process and the integration process.

The influx of Eastern European workers into Britain was very noticeable. It was palpable in my own neighborhood. It was transformed within a year and I began seeing Polish shops, etc.

I think that there is always a sense of reticence, to put it mildly, and possibly hostility at the other end, whenever there is a new wave of immigration. But I think one of the things that the Brexit vote also revealed to us is the fact that there is a discrepancy within the UK landscape between London, which voted largely to remain, and other much more deprived parts of the country. Where there is more deprivation, where there has been less opportunity for people, there has been more hostility towards immigrants. That is understandable when you begin to reflect on it, because if a Polish plumber is going to charge you £10 an hour and a British plumber is finding that his own wage is £14, or whatever, it doesn't match, it's not comparable. I think that's one reason why that happened.

But I think, to answer your question, I think it's a debatable sort of issue, but I think it's very clear that there are lots of social factors within Britain that led to that. But did Europe take advantage? I think London is a global city. It's one of the biggest cities in Europe. So it's not surprising that Europeans would choose to come to London.

Actually, there are many people who came to London after the economic crisis had hit other parts of Europe. So it's not just that they all went straight away to London. But there are many who were working in the construction industry in Spain—for example, Romanians, Poles, etc.—who then went to London because London was, relatively speaking, or England, was in a better position than many of the Southern European countries.

So it's a complex issue. I'm not sure it's about taking advantage. But I think people always go looking for a better life somewhere.

There's also the currency issue. The pound, the sterling, at the moment it's pretty well on par with the euro, but it has traditionally been stronger. There's also that as an incentive for workers.

QUESTION: Susan Gitelson.

Can you address the major question of this panel: Is successful integration possible? Your discussion has been very rational and given us great ground for hope. But at the same time, we read that in many European countries there is a great deal of opposition that is affecting the political scene, and it's very hard to cope with this change, and there are examples of terrorism and so forth, and more and more far-right politicians are rising. So is successful integration possible?

NISHA AGARWAL: In New York's case, the answer is an emphatic "yes," and it has been historically for this city from the very beginning.

But as I mentioned, we work with cities around the country, smaller places, like a Dayton, Ohio, others, for whom migration and the influx of immigrants for a variety of reasons is growing. What they have found is actually that creating a welcoming table, an opportunity for people who are long-term residents of those cities along with the newcomers—by actually creating a table by which there is a two-way dialogue, if you will, and learning from one another, that works better than ignoring the problem or not actually creating the space for working together and developing a policy.

So I think there's an element of choice in whether successful integration is possible. You have to want to make it possible, whether it's a municipal government or other levels of government, to really see the kind of outcomes that we have seen in New York City.

ORIOL AMORÓS: Yes, you're right. In many countries of Europe the fear is managing the politics, or the politicians are managing the fear. People feel fear because of the migrants or because of the globalization, because things are changing so fast that people maybe have many reasons to feel fear or to feel unstable, to feel insecure. I think that the far-right-wing politicians in Europe have been extremely skillful in managing different fears. They have been very skillful at managing, for example, the fear about the Brussels bureaucracy, the fear about the euro, the fear about a financial crisis.

They are very opportunistic. For example, the far right used to be not committed to the freedom of sexual orientation. Today, just to face against the Muslim migrants, far-right parties in Holland, in the Netherlands, are really committed to the freedom of sexual orientation, when the far right in Europe always was against that kind of liberal view. They were against homosexual marriage, and now they are in favor of it, just because they are opportunistic.

Have the traditional politicians dealt with it well? We don't think so. For example, why has Brexit won? Well, that's for another discussion. But many have said that it happened because many years ago British politicians didn't defend the reason for the existence of the European Union.

What has happened with the far right? I think the same. Many politicians thought that they could appease the beast by being similar to the beast. Do you understand what I mean? Sarkozy, for instance—I don't know who is more on the far right now. Is it Le Pen or Sarkozy?

So the crucial idea when we are facing the far-right populism is: Are we going to defend our essential values or not? Can we tolerate, for example, a government like the Hungarian government, which is violating every day the fundamental values of the European Union, and nobody has made it into a crisis, a diplomatic crisis. But the foreign minister of Luxembourg has said that Hungary must be exposed. I am not saying anything, okay? A Luxembourgian has said that.

An historical example: You remember Chamberlain, the prime minister, and Churchill? Chamberlain thought that he could appease the beast, he goes there and makes an agreement, something like that. And what did Churchill say? We have to face it and we have to say that racism is unfair, that racism is unjust, and we have to say that it's very expensive, it's muy caro, because unequal societies are very expensive. You lose security. You lose many things.

Europe at this moment is deciding if history goes ahead or goes back. If we put the hopes and the projects and the ideas for a better future in our decisions, we will go ahead. But if it is fear who decides, we will go back. This is not only in Europe. Public opinion will decide by the project or by the fear. I think that's a key point in many countries. I don't want to say more.

QUESTION: Thank you very much. My name is John Casey. I teach in the School of Public and International Affairs at Baruch College, which is part of the City University of New York.

I was interested to ask how these integration policies are reflected in your understanding of place and space within the city. New York City is very much a mosaic of different neighborhoods, of different communities, many of which have a distinct ethnic identity. I wanted to hear maybe from the representative from New York if there is an official city policy on ethnic enclaves and integration, and also then from the representative from Catalonia about Barcelona and Catalan cities and if there's an official policy or an orientation to these sorts of neighborhoods being created or emerging in Catalonia.

QUESTION: James Cockayne, United Nations University.

My quick question is actually quite complementary to this one. Cities, it seems to me, have a natural advantage here. Cities have always been about relocation, reinvention, change. Plus, there's a density of service delivery capabilities.

I want to change the question slightly: Is successful integration possible outside cities?

NISHA AGARWAL: These are really fantastic questions.

On this question of ethnic enclaves, I think the first thought I have is that it's a bigger question around issues of racial segregation in general in cities across America, including New York, which is actually quite racially segregated, and then on top of that we have the ethnic enclaves.

As a civil rights lawyer, we do have laws that are meant to protect against the kind of forced separation of people, and those work, but to a limited degree, in terms of what we see in cities like New York.

I think one of the differences with ethnic enclaves in some respects is whether people are being forced into those ethnic enclaves. So there's an element of choice in initially saying, for example, "I have come from whatever country and I want to live near people who speak my preferred language, build a life here, and then be able to move on." I think across the United States and in New York we've seen more and more of that happening.

I also think in New York—this speaks to the first question actually—you'll have neighborhoods in Brooklyn where you do hear the prayer calls when you're walking through the streets at various times during the day. You'll hear gospel music in Upper Manhattan and other parts of the city. There was a large Hindu Ganesh parade in Queens the other day that I didn't make it to, where you take over the whole street. What we find is that there is a mix of many different communities that are really living their lives in their communities or cultures in a very open way in New York City, and what we are all doing is negotiating a space. So we're negotiating things that are different from who we are. In my neighborhood, we have a huge West Indian Day parade and celebration, and it's now welcomed by everyone in the community, with some challenges that do emerge as well.

I think that's one of the things that makes New York exciting, is the space for the negotiation to happen, similar to what was described about the burqa versus the hijab. We're having that conversation and it's ongoing. It's hard to answer full stop, but that's my sense of it.

ORIOL AMORÓS: One thing that I want to say about our case is that it's not the first time that it has happened in Catalonia. In the last century, we've received three very huge waves of migrants, first in the 1920s, then in the 1950s and 1960s, and this one in the 21st century. They have been very different waves. The last wave in the 1950s and 1960s of migration was also a migration from rural zones to the cities and it made cities increase a lot. The last migration wave with more migration from abroad is not a process from rural zones to cities only; it is from rural to rural, from rural to cities, from cities to rural.

Why? Because the engine that attracts so many migrants in so short a period—we have received 1.5 million in just ten years—and we are a country that used to have 6 million inhabitants—from 6 to 7.5 million in ten years. You can imagine that. It's great. It's huge.

But the point is that the engine that attracts so many people was the construction sector, which is very spread out, in small towns and villages and also big cities; taking care of people, elderly people, because it is related that Catalan women in the 1990s go to the job market, so they externalized the job they were doing without being paid inside the family, so now they attract many people; and the other is the services—tourism, restoration. All these three things are very spread out.

So we have received many people in a short period of time, but our cities haven't changed the relative dimension. So this new population is very well spread out.

Inside every city it is not the same. Inside every city, what really puts you here and you there is the price of the flats, of the houses. I have to say that we have a urban planning policy which is very interventionist. We have a planning policy in Barcelona mainly, but all the cities around Barcelona, which is very interventionist.

What it means is that, for example, what you do in the public space is you can give more value to some zones. We have had, fortunately I think—that's my opinion—a very strong policy to make better public space in the poorest cities and in the poorest neighborhoods. It balances the kind of people who are going there because if you, for example, are promoting in a poor city close to Barcelona some quality of public space and some promotions of high-level houses, you make a more mixed balance.

Some cities have been successful, like Barcelona for example. Barcelona has 35 percent of migration in the center because it is the center and the center is like centers everywhere in the world. But in the rest of the districts, which includes poor districts and rich districts, the percentage of migrants is in all districts between 13 and 19 percent, which is not a very big difference. So in the richest district in Barcelona we have around 13–14 percent of migrants; and in the poorest district, which is called Nou Barris, we have 19 percent. It's not a very huge difference.

It's not always like that. For example, there is a city close to Barcelona which is called L'Hospitalet, which in the north part has around 50 percent of migrants and in the south part has around 10 percent, which is a failure, we think. So we don't have specific policies around the ethnic enclaves, but we have a policy about equality in the public space. I think that is very important.

And integration outside, in the small villages, is it possible? I think yes. I think maybe it is easier because the public services can do a very important job in integration policies. But the most important job is done by people. Health care and public schools can help a lot, but the most important thing is what happens in the public space where we meet, what happens at the entrance of a school, what happens in the streets of your village. So in the small villages they can run it better.

It does not always happen. For example, in our country, in Catalonia, we have many people from Morocco, from some parts of Morocco, in small villages. They are good, they are not controversial, no problems. But they are not really integrated. That's because of the lack of academic background. I think that's one of the problems. But we hope in the future we will solve that.

JOANNE MYERS: In the interest of time, if you still have a question, I invite you to join us for a glass of red or white wine compliments of Codorniu, a Catalonia vineyard. The wine is complimentary from Catalonia.

I want to ask you to join me in thanking these wonderful panelists for an interesting discussion.

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