There is a common belief that immigrants must submit to the social and cultural norms of the receiving country, and while it is riddled with exclusive and discriminatory measures and reinforces a nationalist agenda, it nevertheless has become one of the foundations of the practice and understanding of immigrant "integration." Foisting a dominant culture onto immigrants, or rather any social groups and minority populations – this time in the name of integration, is a practice of cultural hegemony that has in fact the reverse effect of further othering them. Having this in mind, we might wonder whether we can still include concepts such as inclusion, diversity, and intersectionality within the discourse of immigrant integration when one’s worth and future is determined by their success in conducting the European idea of normalcy? And more importantly, to question the basis based on which we define the categories of citizens versus immigrants and decide accordingly who needs to be integrated?
Defined as the process or act of combining or joining different groups of people into a unified whole, integration is often perceived as the foundation of a “successful” immigration process. However, in practice, integration is not in line with its democratized definition. In fact, instead of trying to create a dynamic process, in which the receiving society works together with the immigrants to build vibrant, safe, and cohesive spaces, integration is understood and executed as one would define assimilation; a one-way process, where the "unalike" is expected to learn and adjust to the predominantly European and Christian norms and values. Moreover, the very notion of immigrant integration reflexively erases the belonging of “labeled immigrants” and “produces gendered and racialized non-belonging.” It acknowledges diversity but only in relation to its departure from the norm and, by doing so, still holds key aspects of existing power hierarchies and patriarchy, while favouring dominant national language over vernacular.
A few years back, I was a supervisor for unaccompanied refugee minors in Berlin. There I got to know a fourteen-year-old, who suffered from serious depression. He had witnessed the persecution of both his father and brother by the Taliban before fleeing Afghanistan and lost the rest of his family on the way to Germany. One morning, on the way to his therapy appointment, he confided in me and talked about the great failure he was, despite being given the opportunity that so many kids in his position would dream of, and that he is not as productive and active as he used to be. He lacked motivation and was embarrassed by his own suicidal thoughts. I realised where his negative thoughts are nurtured and reinforced when he asked me to sit in the session with him. The therapist took every chance to let him know, with a blaming finger, that he will get nowhere unless he stops “being lazy”, improves his German and does better at school. Feeling ashamed, on our way back, he said he does not deserve to be here and he will never be good enough, no matter how hard he tries.
Having a hard time in becoming a “good immigrant” is in fact due to the condescending, dismissive, and discriminative overtone of the notion of integration rather than the question of will and dedication. Many of my social worker colleagues would express frustration with refugees’ inability to truly integrate. While attending numerous meetings and engaging in personal conversations with my colleagues, it seems that in their mind integration is a process, in which the refugee is ought to develop a new identity, based on the instructions they persistently receive, in order to become more “German-like” and less of themselves; policed, instructed and disciplined enough to fit well into norm-boxes designed specifically for them. Yet, even complying with social norms and codes of behaviour is sometimes not enough as long as you look, speak, and exist like an Ausländer. Published in 2019, in “Eure Heimat ist unser Albtraum,” which translates to “your homeland is our nightmare,” fourteen authors share similar stories about how they dealt with the distress, frustration, and trauma of struggling along “colored bodies” in the predominantly white Germany.
The ongoing discrimination, especially practiced by those with more institutionalised power, can sometimes take a passive form, which makes it even more difficult to recognise and eventually rise up against. But then again, the amount of condemnation one is potentially subjected to also depends on their position within the social hierarchy as well as the extent to which they fit into the “European value system.” If the European perceives "the other" as identical or familiar, they tend to evaluate them based on their own cultural values, while ignoring their differences, but if the divergences of the other become distinct in their eyes, they would show no desire in adopting the viewpoint of that alterity. Then again, they would turn to the familiar realm of their own cultural perspective to evaluate the other; they avoid confrontation with self and the precarious realization that “coming to terms with the other's difference is precisely reckoning with the impossibility of knowing it, accepting that it exceeds our understanding or expectations.”
Since the otherness of the Ausländer can come across as confusing and threatening, it will be targeted as an ominous quality, that needs to be restrained and regulated. The white German might have no evil intentions and mean no harm but feels entitled enough to lecture us with a condescending tone bearing the famous title “This is how we do things in Germany”, only to leave the immigrant with negative emotions, self-sabotaging thoughts, and guarded attitudes.
Hence, many of those with migration backgrounds, cannot afford to speak in their (other) native language in public, without having to deal with resentful looks and oppressive reactions. On the other hand, those privileged to voluntarily move beyond borders —motivated by study programs, jobs, and residencies, among many others — may perceive their surrounding terrains as altering passages rather than permanent homes. Consequently, they may not consider extensive engagement and interaction with their new home and its inevitable cultural components, such as the local language, an inescapable duty. In other words, depending on one’s positionality in the neo-colonial matrix of oppression, not everyone can equally afford to choose the style and extent of their interaction with the surrounding environment.
Underlining the racialised realms of migration categories by investigating the difference between the conventional implications of the polysemic notions of "immigrant" and "expatriate" could shed some light on our understanding of such hierarchy. Inherently vague, ambiguous, and unstable, the definitions of immigrant and expatriate, become clearer in relation to each other as they distinguish “human movement” and “belonging” based on power and privilege. While categorizing migrants, based on the complex configurations of class, nationality, gender, and race, is reductionistic and bears the potential of “problematic reproduction of the colonial past,” immigrants are still conventionally perceived as less educated, unemployed and those who move involuntary. Expats, on the other hand, often come from more privileged backgrounds and are, therefore, on top of the human migration hierarchy. The lower placement in the hierarchy, the higher risk of invasion of space and resources for the privileged natives, and therefore, the more one is expected to demonstrate how well they are integrated. In fact, the difference in getting a high or a low score in the integration game is in fact “the difference between those for whom integration is not an issue and those for whom it is.”
One immediate indication of a successful integration process is undoubtedly proficiency in the local language. “When I walk into a doctor’s office, who have listed English as one of the spoken languages on their website, and ask the doctors whether they speak English, they either throw a sharp no at me or treat me like a child who just learned how to speak,” said one of the people I interviewed on the topic integration. She continues: “while insisting my German is actually perfect, judged by that one sentence I exchanged in German: “Sprechen Sie Englisch?” As a “gesture of goodwill” and “empowerment”, they decide you should practice and improve your rusty German, followed by questions that disguise as small talk but is indeed an integration test, based on which, they decide how good of an immigrant you have been and how well you reaffirm their stereotypes. They take every chance to evaluate, correct, and subdue us, while not hesitating to show disappointment when performances do not meet their expectations. This can happen at a doctor’s appointment while performing a medical examination, or at a dinner party by a friend of a friend”. Inevitably, many immigrants believe that in order to be treated equally, they have no way but to step out of their skin, shake their accent off, and elude their previous social identities.
Perhaps this is why many choose to speak English when facing native German speakers, regardless of how proficient they are in German. Speaking English can be a means to switch the power game and avoid being judged or poorly treated. It goes without saying that speaking English is itself extremely political. It is another language with a prolific colonial history that has managed to establish itself as the “global language”. Needless to say, speaking English by a native has different social and political implications that prompts contrasting reactions than when it is spoken by a non-native. Furthermore, on an interpersonal level and depending on your position in the matrix of domination, speaking broken German, in the skin of a white native English speaker, for example, may be considered adorable, sweet, and admiring; but if your looks imply that you come from a less privileged background, your broken German is irritating and despicable.
Immigrant integration is not only racist in practice, but is also researched and studied in a “toxic public discourse, [as it] occurs under the sign of a putatively ‘failed multiculturalism’.”  The problematic separation of white citizens who “do not appear on the integration monitor”  from the rest of the population, is in fact an active way of “separating those who are considered to make up ‘society’ and those who do not and who thus need to further ‘integrate’.” Such discriminatory and neocolonialistic measures are indeed embedded within the infrastructures of our society that manifest themselves in the ways our institutions, education, and value system function. It is thus important to question the extent to which the dominant western political discourse is concerned with the wellbeing and cultural contributions of immigrants as opposed to using it as a decorative shield against the voices that criticize reducing migrants to their economic contributions? When do immigrants cease to be a threat to the values of the receiving countries or obstruction to their democracies?
Immigrant integration should not be about ability or dedication in embracing a dominant culture, but an opportunity to challenge and criticize the immigration discourse, as it is embedded in, and reproduces, the pre-existing power hierarchies. Having in mind how the practice of integration in the global north has become a form of control, cultural colonialism, and execution of power, we should continue to interrogate the ways, in which, those positioned as immigrants are persistently being marginalized and racialized depending on where they are situated on the intersections of race, gender, class, ethnicity, and religion.
In parallel, as individuals, in order to dismantle the Eurocentric discourse of immigrant integration that views self as superior, we need what Sarah Ahmed defines as “closer encounters”, which refers to “encounters with those who are other than the Other”, and where realities are “yet to be formed” . Based on Ahmed’s powerful remark, we cannot truly separate activism from the ways we inhabit the world, and therefore, we need to stay open to the possibility that we may, albeit unwillingly, contribute to discrimination and violence against minority groups, while reinforcing the neo-colonial discourse that thrives on dichotomies of self-other, familiar-alien, or us-them.
 Ausländer is a German term that translates to "foreigner." However, the term Ausländer is not a neutral term, as it carries a xenophobic connotation. It is used in right-wing politics as a derogatory term for immigrants, as well as in formal in informal contexts to refer to those who are recognised as not belonging.
 Fatma Aydemir and Hengameh Yaghoobifar, “Eure Heimat ist unser Albtraum (2019, Berlin: Ullstein Fünf).
 Abdul R. JanMohamed, “The Economy of Manichean Allegory”. In B. Ashcroft, G. Griffiths, & H. Tiffin, The Post-Colonial Studies Reader (pp. 18-24). (London and New York: Routledge, 1995).
 Ilan Kapoor, “Hyper-Self-Reflexive Development? Spivak on Representing the Third World 'Other'” Third World Quarterly 25 no 4, (2004): 644.
 Sarah Kunz, “Expatriate, migrant? The social life of migration categories and the polyvalent mobility of race” Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies 45, no 11 (2019): 2145-2162 .
 Sarah Kunz, “Privileged Mobilities: Locating the Expatriate in Migration Scholarship” Geography Compass 10, no 3, (2016): 90.
 Willem Schinkel, “Against ‘immigrant integration’: for an end to neocolonial knowledge production” Comparative Migration Studies 6 no 31 (2018): 5.
 Notes from a personal Interview, 20 Nov. 2019.
 Willem Schinkel, “Against ‘immigrant integration’: for an end to neocolonial knowledge production” Comparative Migration Studies 6 no 31 (2018): 1-4.