Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Some Remarks On Illegal Immigration

Mad Minerva is on fire - and rightly so:

all my relatives immigrated legally. All our friends did too, immigrating to America from all different countries, like Vietnam, South Korea, India, Taiwan, mainland China, Germany, Canada, etc. etc. They all followed the rules, obeyed the law, waited their turn, filed their paperwork, and did everything legally. Frankly, I think giving amnesty to millions of illegal immigants is an insult and a slap in the face to everyone who came to America legally. I am in favor of immigration -- legal immigration.

I've been following that issue mainly through German national public radio station Deutschlandfunk (DLF), which is taking heavily on this issue by airing about ten pieces a week about it. In my opinion, the coverage is mostly fair and balanced and provides solid background to let the audience judge for themselves.

There are only two points where some bias is involved: First, almost all German media coverage refers to the rallies as "Demonstrationen gegen U.S. Einwanderungspolitik" (rallies against U.S. immigration policy). This expression is mirrored in the U.S. media (and U.S. blogs as well!) coverage about "the failure of immigration policy in Europe". Both conceptions are wrong, and in both cases I tend to ask: "Immigration policy? What policy?"

Germany, for example, isn't experiencing a failure of a given immigration policy, but the consequences of an absence thereof.

And the U.S.? C'mon, do you really want to tell me that massive illegal immigration and failing border control should be labeled as a "policy"?

The second point is, that almost all German media are taking on "eine tiefsitzende Angst der Amerikaner vor den mexikanischen Einwanderern" (a deep-rooted anxiety towards the immigrants from Mexico), and by using that expression over and over again, it sounds like this "angst" is a.) foolish and b.) unjustified. This perception in some German media outlets doesn't apply exclusively to the U.S., but also to Germany: Xenophobia equals racism. End of story.

Now, let's take a closer look at those rallies: The rallies had hundreds of thousands participants. Most of the participants were illegal immigrants. (That's what it is all about, after all.) Some of them shouted aggressive slogans in Spanish. And they launched a lot of "demands".

Sorry, but I can't blame anyone being scared by a crowd of illegal foreigners shouting aggressive demands in a foreign language.

Yes, there seems to be a labor market problem in the U.S. But apart from the fact that Germany would be enthusiasticly happy with that kind of labor market problem: Is it really helpful to address this problem by breaking the law in the first place?

Adding another rant, illegal immigration comes in handy for some businesses in the U.S. in terms of wages, insurances etc. This morning, there was a DLF rally feature, in which an American citizen was quoted: "My husband is in the plastering business. His employer told him: 'If you don't wanna work for six bucks per hour, well, then I have a couple of Mexicans who want." What is more, illegal Mexican workers are easy to handle, no? Now, the illegal immigrants, among other things, demand the U.S. citizenship. This demand sounds like a perfect example of "digging your own grave" to me, because once the illegal immigrants are U.S. citizens, there will be no reason for their employers to further employ them.

Meanwhile in Germany, where btw Davids Medienkritik ones again caught German magazine STERN red-handed on confusing figures (People! To find a mistake in a STERN piece is as difficult as finding a GWB joke in an Jon Stewart appearance), the Deutsche Welle runs a story, claiming that "Illegals in Germany Face Similar Problems as Those in US". It's one of the most biased pieces I've come across lately, including the priceless sub-headline "Restricting illegal immigration harms the economy". Another priceless quote:

That is still the only way illegal immigrants can gain citizenship here -- to marry a German. Another option -- for women -- is to have a child with a German man.

Citizenship? Come again? Neither marriage nor a child with a German citizen does assure you a right of residence. It's been a while since I left this business (the illegal immigration lawyer business, that is), but back in the late 90's, cases like that went like this: eviction order, plus eventual deportation, plus denial of reentry for a couple of months or even years for the woman - and probably an investigation and a fine for the German. Citizenship? Forget about it for the next decade or so. Um, maybe the law situation has changed dramatically in favor of illegal immigrants and I simply failed to notice it.

After stating that

Many of the illegal immigrants who come to Germany have followed relatives who are now living legally in the country

the article concludes that

One would think the easiest solution would be to crack down on illegal aliens even more. But like in the United States, the demand for them is great.

To compare the U.S. and Germany here is to compare apples and oranges. Whereas the U.S. illegal immigration problem is about work force immigrants from neighboring countries who want to stay permanently, the illegal immigration Germany is challenged by consists of relatives of legal immigrants, mostly of foreign citizenship, refugees and declined asylum seekers and temporary (!) labor migrants, mostly from eastern Europe. And even labor migrants from Africa, of which it can't be said for how long they'll stay in Germany, are different from the illegal immigrants in the U.S.: they are not supported by influencial groups, they don't build visible communities, they don't demonstrate or file demands by using their native language, and they don't show any interest of becoming citizens.

Above all: Germany's problem is not illegal immigration. It's illegal employment, due to our overly regulated labor market.


Here we go. From the Berliner Tagesspiegel (hat tip Ulrich Speck):

Das Deutschland der Möglichkeiten

Weniger Sozialhilfe und mehr Lebenschancen für Einwanderer: Ein Blick nach Amerika täte der Integrationsdebatte gut

(very loosely: The Germany of Choices - Less social welfare and more opportunities for immigrants: America can teach us a lesson) The Google translation of this article sounds rather err... strange to me, but I'm optimistic that Davids Medienkritik will come up with a proper translation ;-).

Update (May 3, 2006)

On a related note: Old member states remain split over easing labour access

Finland, Greece, Portugal and Spain have decided to open up their labour markets to EU-8 citizens. However, the Union's strongest economies continue to keep their restrictions in place.


For the next three years, the EU's strongest economies will remain partly or fully closed to workers from the EU-8 states. Austria, France, Germany, Italy and the Netherlands will continue to keep their doors closed to job hunters from Eastern Europe (the Dutch may ease the restrictions by 2007). Meanwhile, Finland, Greece, Portugal and Spain have decided to adopt the EU's open-border policy. (...)


Anonymous said...

The German media's stance on this issue (the issue in the USA I mean) is somewhat baffling to me (to say the least). In regard to Americans, the press seems intent on propagating the idea that Americans are heartless and arrogant for not giving citizenship to these 11-12 million (maybe more) illegal people, or for having 'harsh laws' (which apparently no-one bothers to enforce) against them. Personally, I would love to see the press reaction if a proportionate number of people (~4 million) decided to march through Berlin and *demand* all the rights of German citizenship (as well as to have the national anthem in their language - although I've heard that someone threw the 'German anthem in Turkish' idea onto the playing field recently abd that reaction to that has been, interesting). I'm sure if protests like this happened in Germany that there would be nothing else to read in any German paper for months (and that the reaction would be anything but sympathetic to the illegals). I'm sure that despite what the press seems to think, most Germans probably don't understand the 'amnesty' attitude either (It's my fortunate experience btw that most Germans are nothing at all like what the German media suggest they might be, thank God - the 'media elite' seems to be a special breed all of its own). What I find most difficult to understand though is why the US doesn't just *enforce* the laws in this situation - it's illegal to be in a country, um, illegally, and it's also illegal for companies to employ these people - fine these companies 20,000.00+ per head and it would pay for the costs of deportation, put money toward education, healthcare and other development, and surely discourage companies from breaking the law (not to mention help recover the middle class once companies are forced to pay their employees a living wage). If anything, giving these people amnesty instead would also make the USA look far worse (and just plain foolish) than any 'behold how the evil Americans treat illegal immigrants' article in Stern or Spiegel ever could.

Don said...

Marian, I would argue that Spain and Finland are among the strongest EU economies based upon growth figures and other economic statistics. Netherlands is in that league also. One of the reasons for this (I would argue) is relative openness, particularly to other European nations.

I'm in the computer trade and one of the decades-long debates is about the H1B visa program historically used by US employers to bring in skilled labor to the US.

I always supported it strongly until recently because I figured it was better to have Indians in the US working for US wages than to outsource the work at much lower wages. Recently I'm not as certain, because I think the purpose has been perverted with consulting and outsourcing companies monopolizing the quota for the program rather than direct US employers.

Historically H1B holders were almost as well-off as US citizens and green card holders, because getting a green card was normally part of the deal and once the green card arrived the worker was as free to leave as anyone else. I think the recent changes have shifted the balance of power in the consuting company's favor and I don't like it. It is also used by outsourcing companies to staff their local liasons in the US and I don't like THAT at all!

I would support a reform measure which kept a chosen few employers from monopolizing the yearly quota and brought it back closer to it's original intent of individual companies negociating with individuals.

Don said...

Nothing could be more simple than having the German national anthem in Turkish. Simply do a straight translation of the verses from German into Turkish, then have someone literate and fluent in Turkish use synonyms to make it rhyme. The German government doesn't have to lift a finger - German Turks should do it themselves.

To have it sung in public? Again no problem. Let the Turks sing it when appropriate.

Anonymous said...

Düsseldorf is a great city! Greetings from New Hampshire, USA.

The problem with the concept of "simply enforcing the laws we have and fining US companies $20k per head" is three fold:

First, if we paid US wages, or anything like them to pick fruit, our agriculture industry would be uncompetitive. Our strawberries, grapes, etc. would all come from Mexico and not only would our farmers go broke, but the people who supply them machinery as well.

Second, we have probably 5 million illegal immigrants in California. In some towns they number over 80%. If we evict these people California will be left with hundreds of thousands of foreclosed houses, empty apartments, a glut of reposessed cars, banks without accounts, malls without customers and factories without workers. In short. The economy will crash.

Third, the people we send back will starve.

Attempting to deport all of our illegals is a lose/lose/lose scenario.

But maintaining our status pro makes little sense either.