Facing Immigration Overseas

January 27, 2008 | | Comments Off on Facing Immigration Overseas

Guest Blogger: Maria Luisa Olivieri, English as a Second Language Teacher, Winston-Salem, NC

Xenophobia and fears of terrorism are fueling an anti-immigrant hysteria in the world’s powerful nations. Spain has apparently not succumbed to such hysteria, having received its fill during Franco’s regime. Instead, Spain has developed a unique and proactive immigration strategy.

Over the past five years, Spain has implemented a radical immigration policy. The government’s 2005 move to grant amnesty to approximately 700,000 illegal immigrants appalled many fellow EU countries. Despite this reaction and the risk of increased immigration, Spain continued with its unique strategy. Workers who flocked to Spain for work were granted amnesty, for a mutual benefit. Though risky, this move has benefited Spain, bringing jobs out of the black market and forcing millions of Euros into the tax revenue system. Other nations should consider such concessions, even on a temporary basis. Many immigrants arrive not for citizenship, but to earn a living. When the jobs are gone, they are likely to be gone as well.

An August 11, 2007 New York Times article, “To Curb Illegal Migration, Spain Offers a Legal Route,” outlines Spain’s latest plan to handle the tens of thousands of Africans who come to the country illegally. Workers from Senegal can come to Spain legally to perform jobs that Spanish workers will not. After a year, Senegalese workers can bring their families to Spain and renew their visas every subsequent year. Early statistics for the first half of 2007 show that the number of illegal immigrants being detained off the Canary Islands dropped by half compared to 2006.And, the early statistics show that unemployment for native-born and foreign-born populations is down. The recent immigration strategy also fosters favorable foreign attitudes toward Spain. African countries supplying guest workers appreciate the program and the money being sent home. Not only is the Spanish government saving those who risk their lives to cross its borders illegally, it is also contributing to development in other countries. The Spanish government has created training facilities in Africa, which will educate workers who can return to their native countries as investors and entrepreneurs after working in Spain.

As Spain proceeds with its creative immigration policy, three important issues must be considered. The first is the potential for terrorist attacks and activity. Screening the applicants to guest worker programs and obtaining intelligence on immigrants living in Spain is important. Next, although the Spanish government should be applauded for establishing emergency centers for immigrants on the mainland and the Canary Islands, it needs to ensure the ethical care of these immigrants. The last and greatest challenge for Spain will be to maintain its policy despite pressures from the more conservative EU and US.

While challenges remain, Spain’s proactive immigration policy has been effective thus far and should be considered as a viable option by other nations. Spain itself has been a victim of terrorism and has not let fear of immigrants overcome it. Instead of building a wall, Spain has begun to build bridges.

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