Immigration and asylum: right balance amid security threats
By Gustavo De Aristegui | Published: 05th March 2017 04:00 AM |
It seems like the world has been hijacked by the extremes. On the one hand, we have the irresponsible extreme left wing that demands unconditional open borders, no background checks, no concerns for forged documents or criminals or terrorists sneaking in, just utopic open borders; these are the followers of an oppressive totalitarian ideology that transforms nations into giant concentration camps.
This is a perfect recipe for disaster. On the other hand, the extreme nationalistic right wing and the neo-fascist racists claim that every foreigner is a threat to the security and the essence and identity of the richer nations that they claim are the only civilised ones.
No great nation has been built without immigration, and many of them have also been stricken by economic or political disaster and even by war; it seems that many have forgotten their painful past. When those tragedies shake the foundations of any country, too often the only way out, the only salvation is exile, emigration or asylum-seeking.
My country, Spain, has suffered at least three civil wars in the 19th century and a horrible one in the 20th century, that caused a million casualties in just three years. Spaniards fled the poor war-ravaged Spain in the 19th century, and the loosing side in the 36-39 Spanish Civil War was forced to exile to Mexico, Argentina or France among other countries. Poor Spain sent out economic migrants to France, Germany, Venezuela or Argentina in the 50s and 60s. Most of them returned to Spain when their homeland became a prosperous and vibrant democracy.
It should be stressed that the USA would not be the most powerful, advanced or innovative nation if it weren’t for migrants. Some of the prominent Americans were sons of migrants, or were migrants themselves. Many of them were world leaders in science, literature, academia, politics, industry, medicine or business.
The Indian community in the USA has become an essential part of the American life—there are two members of Congress and a senator, two former governors, one of which, Nikki Haley, is the US ambassador to the UN (a cabinet rank position). What would the USA be without the Einsteins or Kissingers who made America Great?
Closed borders will impoverish the US, isolate it from the world, and could seriously diminish their role as leaders of the Free World. The restrictions on visas and green cards will inevitably hinder the progress of the US, and will cause scientific and economic stagnation. Had this restriction been enforced years ago, Satya Nadella wouldn’t be the CEO of Microsoft, Sundar Pichai wouldn’t be the CEO of Google, and Indra Nooyi the CEO of PepsiCo.
But this is not a phenomenon that is isolated; fanatical and irresponsible populism (radical left and extreme right alike) are seizing control of European societies. Not a single country in the EU is an exception—Spain and the revolutionary left wing Podemos, Greece and the Syriza, the UK and the UKIP, France and the Front National, Poland and the ultra-conservative Law and Justice party, and Hungary and the transformation of Fidesz (a member of the centre-right European Peoples Party) into a far-right party.
In Holland, Geert Wilders of the PVV party has based his electoral campaign on his hatred of Moroccan immigrants, the largest minority in the country. Hard right populism is also on the rise in Sweden, Italy, Finland and many more nations.
The fear of terrorist or criminal infiltrations is logical and legitimate. Last week, the European Commission, represented by its president Jean-Claude Juncker, urged the EU member-states to deport a million illegal immigrants, which proves that they take illegal immigration very seriously.
But to treat every foreigner as a criminal, or at best as a “backward, uneducated burden”, to equate every asylum seeker to a terrorist, is not only morally and legally wrong, it’s profoundly stupid. Some are fighting the wrong enemy, and this will inexorably lead to an endless downward spiral towards chaos and mayhem. Only moderation, compassion, decency and common sense can make the world a better place.