Pressuring Immigrants to Assimilate

Although it is tempting to avoid ethnic tensions by pressuring immigrants to assimilate, there are serious drawbacks to such a policy

It is tempting to apply political or even legal pressure upon immigrants to assimilate: to conform to majority behaviours.  Some of the reasons advanced in favour of encouraging assimilation are:

●  Existing inhabitants, preferring their own culture, often want ‘to keep things as they are’.  They argue that they should not have to adapt or be exposed to changes around them.

●  It benefits the immigrants themselves, both economically and socially, if they integrate.

●  Homogeneity is easier for everybody.

●  A policy of assimilation might lessen the risk of identity politics.

There are arguments against a policy of pressuring immigrants to assimilate, though:

●  It is unnecessary: people will gradually learn to live together without a top-down policy, if peace is maintained (4.4.1).

●  Attempts to force rapid assimilation, by forms of coercion such as the French prohibition on wearing the Islamic veil (, lead to immediate resentment.  Such policies are likely to backfire because people want to assert their identities in the face of what they inevitably see as oppression.

●  In countries which have a dominant religious sect, or a strong secular tradition, a stated policy of assimilation confers second-class status on everyone who holds different beliefs.

●  Freedom of belief is a cherished human right – it is in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Appendix 1), for example.

●  Ethnic diversity can enrich everybody’s lives and stimulate creativity.



This page is intended to form part of Edition 4 of the Patterns of Power series of books.  An archived copy of it is held at https://www.patternsofpower.org/edition04/6743a.htm.