Marine Le Pen is sort of the French version of Donald Trump. She is a right-wing populist, leader of the National Front Party, and expected to be a finalist in next year’s presidential election. Win or lose, she is clearly a big part of Europe’s drift toward the political right.
She said recently that she would deny a free education to the children of illegal immigrants, in contradiction of current French law.
I can almost hear the cheering from the anti-immigrant crowd in Europe, with echoes here.
Immigration is a major issue everywhere, and it’s easy to understand the desire and need to control borders. Perhaps the biggest quandary is what to do about illegal immigrants already inside them, with a special emphasis on children. We will be dealing with that problem ourselves in short order.
I would submit that denying education to the children of illegals is a very short-sighted idea. Is it a burden on taxpayers? Yes, but consider the alternative. These kids will learn the language poorly, if at all. They will know nothing of national history. Their math skills will be rudimentary, and you can forget about science.
Instead of socializing with native children, they will be trapped in some immigrant neighborhood, educated in the ways of whatever culture their parents came from, and shunned by people like Ms. Le Pen. It will be difficult, if not impossible, for them ever to become integrated and productive citizens of whatever country they are in.
What will they do when they are older? The riots and terrorist outbreaks we see now give us a clue. Deportation may sound like a solution, but first you have to find them, then presumably deport their whole family along with them. Difficult, expensive, perhaps cruel, and where can they go?
This is not to say that we, or France, or any country should throw open borders and educate the children of anybody who comes in. Controlling borders and tracking legal immigrants as they work and pay taxes and possibly become citizens needs to become a top priority of Western nations. But if we refuse to educate the next generation, who will probably remain here in any event, we are allowing the development of subcultures of potentially unemployable and violent people.
The nations of the West have created their own problem. Open borders within the Euro zone have permitted floods of Middle Eastern and African refugees to move about the continent unrestricted and unreported. Our own porous Southern border has allowed the same situation to occur here, though our laws are theoretically more strict.
There is no easy fix, and the piper must be paid. It seems unlikely, even in France, that school-age children will be allowed to roam the streets, or that they will be deported successfully en masse. In any event, the cost of either of those alternatives might well exceed the cost of educating them.
France now has a Muslim population of around 7.5 percent, the highest in Western Europe. Muslims’ continued failure or refusal to assimilate into French culture lies at the heart of Ms. Le Pen’s simplistic solution to children’s education. This may have a gut appeal to people fed up with an embedded alien culture, but leaving the next generation alone to absorb rejection and resentment is not going to solve anything.
Discriminating against a Muslim minority plays into the hand of ISIS or al-Quaeda or whomever. It makes their propaganda credible and agitates the disaffected.
Minority and illegal populations are too deeply embedded simply to wish away or deport. The best opportunity for the West to maintain calm at home is to educate the next generation.
Longtime columnist Fred Wolferman recently moved from Southern Pines back to his native Kansas City. Contact him by email at fwolferman @gmail.com.