Belgium Contemplates “Newcomers’ Statement” For Immigrants

In the wake of recent terrorist attacks, Belgium’s Parliament is considering, and is deemed likely to pass, legislation requiring non-EU immigrants to sign a “Newcomers’ Statement” pledging adherence to basic European values. While it doesn’t distinguish among immigrants, the statement is obviously aimed at Muslims. The concept is an interesting one; here is the Statement in its entirety:

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The statement covers the basic flash points that have emerged in connection with Islamic immigration: equality of the sexes, opportunities for girls, acceptance of homosexuality, religious freedom (i.e., no death penalty for apostasy), no terrorism. One wonders: if Belgium’s government doubts that a group of immigrants adheres to these basic principles, why are they being admitted? Is it really likely that signing this pledge can assuage whatever doubts exist about certain immigrants participating appropriately in Belgian society? It doesn’t seem so.

The pledge also highlights Belgium’s Achilles heel: its own multilingual, and to an extent multicultural, nature:

I understand and accept that the language of the region in which I will stay (French, Dutch or German) is essential to participate actively in society. Therefore I will make sufficient efforts to learn these languages and to familiarize myself with this society.

To learn “these languages?” Does that mean French, Dutch and German? If so, it is not a realistic expectation. And the list of languages testifies uncomfortably to Belgium’s fragmented society. Would a comparable pledge in the United States commit the immigrant to learning either English or Spanish?

In principle, I don’t have any problem with requiring immigrants to sign some sort of pledge to abide by the values of the host country and to abjure terrorism. But I don’t see how such a document can substitute for choosing a nation’s immigrants wisely in the first place.