Growing up with foreign-born parents, I grew accustomed to watching news from international networks, like the British Broadcasting Center (BBC) and Al Jazeera. To this day I continue to get the majority of my news via international outlets on the internet. In fact I watched the majority of the election coverage last month from Al Jazeera’s live stream. Over the years, I found myself developing an international perspective when it came to American current issues, and as a result, wound up often analyzing news in the US from how the rest of the world saw it. There are many national issues in the US that appalls the rest of the world–from its disproportionate amount of Black inmates in its prisons, to its healthcare and expensive higher-education system. One issue in particular, which is what brings me to write on ImmigrationTalk today, is immigration in the US.
In the US liberals see the immigration issue as a humanitarian one, whereas conservatives see it is an issue of protecting national identity. Surprisingly, the rest of the world’s immigration policies reflect how the Republican party wish it looked like. Throughout the world, immigrants are treated as inferior to the native population. Most of them cannot obtain citizenship, or even the equivalent of a green card. Many are stuck in refugee camps and classified as second-class citizens (citizens of the state, technically, but not granted full rights as citizens by blood or birth).
The Israeli and Palestinian conflict, which has left hundreds of thousands of Palestinians displaced, and hundreds of thousands of new immigrants into Israel is an interesting starting point when examining immigration abroad. Immigration abuse is especially evident among displaced Palestinian communities in Jordan, home of the majority of Palestinian refugees. Despite Queen Noor of Jordan being Palestinian, the Palestinians are granted refugee status in Jordan and are not allowed to be functional members of Jordanian society. They are stuck in their own quartered refugee camps, separate, and far away from the major cities like Amman. In the past few years, Jordan has made an effort to slow down Palestinian immigration immensely—which has forced Palestinians to move in Syria, wrought with a civil war, and Egypt, where borders have slowly allowed Palestinians to trickle through. For the majority of Palestinians who hope to leave the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, they are stuck because of the immigration policies of its neighbors.
Additionally, Israel, has been accused of racist and biased immigration policies and treatment of non-White Jewish immigrants like Ethiopians. A few weeks ago Al Jazeera reported that Israel allowed 3 Black immigrants into the country. The very fact that this was considered news-worthy attests to Israel’s discriminatory policies toward non-White Jewish immigrants. The Black immigrants inside of Israel are given menial jobs that allow little opportunity to mobilize up the economic ladder. Many of the Black Israelis, although they identify themselves as Jews, are not identified as being Jews by the state. Ironically, the Black Jews who are treated the best inside of Israel are African Americans. Earlier this year Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu suggested that the Black migrants are a threat to Israeli national security, and that Israel should build a fence to protect itself. However, Israel’s policies are considerably liberal to much of the European world.
European immigration policies are infamous for being revolved around protecting each state’s “national identity” and “national character” of its white and Christian native population. Nicholas Sarkozy, France’s former President and also the leader in banning the Muslim headscarf, the hijab, has repeatedly claimed that he would buckle down on slowing down the flow of immigration, and even reducing the number of immigrants currently residing in France. In April during his campaign for re-election (which ultimately failed because immigrants came out in record numbers to vote for the tolerant, and immigrant-friendly Socialist Francois Hollande), Sarkozy pledged to more strongly uphold the French borders, and also attacked efforts to promote multiculturalism in France.
Throughout Europe, the rhetoric is the same. Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard, an immigrant from Wales herself, stated that she does not support the idea of a “big Australia”, and created a “Minister of Population” to actively seek sustaining Australia’s native population from the increasing supposed onslaught of immigrants into the state. In addition, she has called for opening more detention facilities for immigrants who entered Australia illegally seeking asylum.
Nativism is strong throughout the rest of the world, and although the movement is growing inside of the United States, it will never be as robust because of a simple fact: the United States was founded by immigrants, lives on the principle of multiculturalism, and continues to be one of the most innovative and strong economies because it attracts (and welcomes) skilled immigrants from around the world. The US is not the rest of the world. Indeed, the US is extremely unique. No matter how much Republicans, or “Clash of Civilizations” author Samuel Huntington insists, there is no such thing as the “American race”. This country is a nation of immigrants, the only difference in the 21st century, is the skin color of the new wave of immigration. However, as imperfect as American immigration policies are, the US is much more tolerant toward immigrants, documented or not, than most of the rest of the world. Everyday local officials turn the blind eye on immigrants, from farmers, cleaners, students, day laborers, and more than we encounter and interact with everyday. Refugees in the US receive a substantial amount every month to help jump start their new beginning in their new homeland.
While the rest of the world may view the American government as being too soft on immigration, many Americans claim the opposite–The Obama administration, having deported more Latino immigrants than any other US President is too hard on undocumented immigrants, and must be pragmatic in dealing with the problem. Obama will not be turning to Europe anytime soon to learn how the US should deal with immigrants. Instead, as the world becomes increasingly open and tolerant of others, the rest of the world may be looking at the United States for advice.