Friday, December 2, 2005 at 11:32 AM

New Immigration laws promise comfort to fools in Washington and Paris

Posted by Anthony L. Hall

Reflecting uncanny coincidence or, perhaps, just shared desperation, the United States and France announced new anti-immigration measures on Tuesday that are aimed at “preventing terrorists [and rioters] from crossing [their] borders.”

For his part, President Bush used the background of the notoriously porous fence at the US-Mexican border to warn would-be illegal immigrants (some of whom American intelligence suspect could be terrorists) that:

“We’ve got a comprehensive strategy that says we’re going to enforce this border….We’re going to prevent people from coming here in the first place.”

Key provisions in the “get-tough” U.S. immigration laws are those calling for high-tech sensors, more Border Patrol agents, cameras aimed at catching illegal entrants and more aggressive (and intrusive) surveillance powers to monitor the activities of suspected terrorists already in the country. Moreover, Bush gave notice that illegal immigrants who make it across the border, despite these measures, will no longer be granted due process hearings.

Instead, those caught will be repatriated to the “interior” of Mexico pursuant to a new agreement with the Mexican government. Of course, this is critical because, under the old policy, illegal immigrants who were caught were issued court dates to plead their case but invariably ignored them and disappeared into America’s insular illegal immigrant community, which is now estimated at over 11 million people.

Meanwhile, over in Paris, French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin stood before the French Parliament and blamed the recent riots that set his country ablaze on immigration laws that were too accommodating (especially to Muslim immigrants from North Africa). He then proposed his own “get-tough” immigration laws that he promised would:

“…make it more difficult for foreign students and foreign-born relatives of French residents to enter the country. [Adding that] integration into our society, notably command of the French language, should be a condition for bringing in one’s family.”

Not to be upstaged, however, French Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy – the man generally blamed for igniting and credited for putting out the riotous fires (and who is expected to run against de Villepin to succeed Jacques Chirac as president of France) – took to the floor of Parliament to endorse its new anti-immigration surveillance laws and announce that:

“France did not want those people that nobody else in the world wants….We want selective immigration.”

Indeed! Nonetheless, here’s a reality check:

Although these new measures might appease the paranoia (and appeal to the xenophobia) of some American and French citizens, they are patently reactionary, irrational and, ultimately, irrelevant.

First of all, the U.S. does not even have an immigration problem. It has an employment problem. And this problem cannot be solved by using Mexicans – who provide indispensable cheap labour for its thriving economy – as scapegoats to ally concerns about terrorists.

Instead, though anathema to many in his ruling Republican Party, Bush should push for the enactment of his guest worker plan, which calls for comprehensive documentation of all illegal immigrants. Because such documentation would remove the stigma of criminality from these mostly honest and hardworking people, provide more reliable demographic information for the census and national security databases, increase national revenues as some of these newly documented workers pay income taxes, and, ameliorate fears about the solvency of social security as FICA taxes are withheld from their paychecks.

By contrast, however, France does have an immigration problem. But it’s not illegal immigration. The problem is that France is treating its legal immigrants the way the U.S. treated its black citizens almost 50 years ago. And, just as they incited blacks to riot in America back then, institutionalized racism and de facto segregation incited these immigrants to riot all over France a few weeks ago.

Instead of enacting gratuitous immigration laws, therefore, France should redress the systemic barriers that prohibit the assimilation of its dispossessed, disenfranchised and disillusioned immigrant population into mainstream society and inhibit their educational, professional and cultural ambitions. In fact, notwithstanding the backlash against it in America today, an aggressive programme of affirmative action in each of these areas would do more to cure the root causes of the riots than hermetically sealing French borders against illegal immigration.

Note: Implementing Bush’s guest worker plan does not preclude improving border security. However, it behooves Americans to appreciate that the new immigration laws Bush announced on Tuesday is like using a band aid to treat a patient with heart problems. Whereas, implementing his guest worker plan is like operating on that patient’s defective heart.

Endnote: It’s a testament to Bush’s incorruptible humanity that he proposes this guest worker plan in the face of fierce opposition from some of his most loyal political allies. But he probably recognises that these are the same mercenary politicians who opposed his Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (which was heralded around the world just yesterday on World AIDS Day). And, he undoubtedly appreciates that their opposition now is motivated not out of concern for the welfare of the country but out of concern for the bottom line for their business-owning constituents who, under this plan, will have to pay documented immigrants a minimum wage and provide other employment benefits.


  1. Anonymous December 2, 2005 at 9:54 pm

    Impeach Bush!

    “War is the means by which Americans learn geography.”
       — Ambrose Bierce (1842-1914)

    Impeach Bush!

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