The most fundamental distinction lawyers and philosophers learn is between 'ought' and 'is', or the similar fact/value distinction. If you go into court and argue that your client should not be sent to prison because the laws are unfair and really ought to be improved, you will lose, and your client will go to prison. As the old saying goes, this ain't a court of justice, this is a court of law.
Should the native inhabitants of European nation-states embrace large numbers of immigrants who don't look like them and don't share their language, religion, and/or culture? You can have a lively and interesting debate about this question, with plausible arguments on both sides. But even if you argue yes, emphatically, they ought do to so, that does not mean it is the case that they actually do.
If you ignore the fact that most native Britons, Germans, Swedes, Danes, etc. do not want large numbers of people from very different cultures being allowed to permanently settle in their countries, you risk a backlash that will make the situation worse. We are seeing this right now with the rise of right-wing nativist parties all over Europe. The road to hell is paved with good intentions.
The British Labour party is also finding this out. As we all know, it recently got its head handed to it on a platter in a humiliating national defeat. Much of the blame of course rests with Scotland, where Labour supporters ditched the party to vote SNP. Some more of the blame goes to an unconvincing campaign. But in their desperate attempt to understand why one of Britain's two mass political parties is disintegrating, Labour analysts are hitting upon one theme over and over: immigration.
In the late 1990s and early 2000s, Labour oversaw a massive increase in immigration into Great Britain. Former Labour speechwriter Andrew Neather has claimed that one of the reasons for this policy change was that Labour wanted to create a new 'multicultural' Britain.
Whether you agree with this policy is one thing. Quite another is whether closely associating itself with large increases in immigration damaged Labour. The evidence is pouring in on that point.
Shortly after their shellacking, Labour convened focus groups of former Labour voters to find out why they abandoned the party. In an article tellingly entitled "Labour's lost voters may never return again (sic), study finds", the Guardian -- summarized the results. The voters identified a weak candidate and tax policy as some of their concerns, but the party:
...was also seen as anti-business, in the pocket of the unions and not tough enough on immigration. “Immigration is the topic that, left to their own devices, the respondents would have talked about all night. Their central arguments, across all groups and repeated frequently, were along the lines that our country is full, our country is broke and public services are creaking and cannot stand extra strain.”
Recently, seven Labour MPs who lost their seats in the last election decided to canvass their constituents to find out why. You may notice a certain pattern:
The campaign, the authors claim, addressed only “the needy and greedy”, leaving the rest ignored. The party had nothing to say on welfare, business creation or immigration, “sounding as if it was on the side of those that don’t work”.
Labour, they say, was “frightened to enter the difficult conversations on immigration, leaving those discussions to go on without the Labour party”.
The seven also suggest Labour needs not just to regain economic credibility but to rethink its approach to immigration, advocating a shift from free to fair movement of labour within the EU.
They write: “We need to answer concerns about immigration and identity, especially for people attracted by Ukip’s resistance to change.
We had been told by senior figures in the party that Ukip was a boon to Labour, splitting the right of the country, but not for marginal seats like ours. In these white working class communities, particularly on the coast, Ukip tore our vote apart.
“This loss of the white working class vote is a crisis for our party, not just because we lost, but because it raises an existential question about who we represent.”
Should Europeans be more accommodating toward immigrants? Perhaps they should. Are they going to be more accommodating to immigrants in the near future? No. In fact there is every reason to think they will continue on a well-established path of being increasingly less accommodating to immigrants. They will increasingly vote for nativist parties and insist on stricter controls.
The road to hell is paved with good intentions.