Senate Is the backlash against immigration valid, racist, both... or something else?

Discussion in 'Community' started by Ender Sai, Feb 11, 2014.

  1. Ender Sai Chosen One

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    http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/10/w...wly-approve-curbs-on-immigration.html?hp&_r=1

    As you may know, Switzerland - home of chocolates, cheese, no tax, banks and luxury timepieces - recently passed a referendum that was a bit of a shock. They elected to limit the number of migrants arriving annually.

    Switzerland, as a whole, relies heavily on immigration into key sectors like pharmaceuticals and banks (as a matter of fact, friends of mine moved there recently for work in the former sector). These sectors, as well as the incumbent government, cautioned against the vote but the right wing Swiss People's Party was apparently more pervasive. 56% of the population turned out to vote; 50.3% of them approved the measure.

    That's not insignificant.

    And in other parts of Europe - notably France, Holland, and the UK - similar sentiment against immigration is being expressed. It's tempting to dismiss these as racist ravings, but are they?

    Is the backlash against immigration rooted in racism; in job insecurity, or is there some valid criticisms to be made of immigration (such as citing crime statistics where immigrants are disproportionately represented in violent incidents)?

    Sorry it wasn't an Economist link.
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  2. Darth Guy Chosen One

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    I think there are legitimate concerns regarding immigration, mostly pertaining to the exploitation of immigrant labor and how they drive down wages as a result. That said, the vast majority of the negative reaction to immigration is racist and xenophobic and (where applicable) Islamophobic. Switzerland. This is the same country that banned minarets a while back, yes? I remember being in London when Bulgaria and Romania were admitted to the EU and all the rags (which is apparently every newspaper in the country) were rallying the defense against the imminent Balkan Invasion.

    Immigration is the only thing keeping the UK and France from descending into the abyss of sustained population decline for a couple decades longer than most of the rest of the continent. It's funny that a region shaped by wave after wave of migration and invasion still freaks out about a comparatively minor trend (including Eastern Europeans going west and migrants from outside Europe). I'm sure the Romans would have something to say about these barbarians claiming to be "natives" defending their so-called homelands from foreigners.
    Last edited by Darth Guy, Feb 11, 2014
  3. Alpha-Red Force Ghost

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    I don't think it's racism. More like a combination of nationalism and job insecurity. Nationalism is probably something that remains constant, but in good economics times it gets trumped by the need for immigrant labor, while in bad economic times it combines with job insecurity to produce anti-immigrant sentiment.
  4. dp4m Chosen One

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    Ender, just curious -- are you looking for a Euro-centric answer or more globalized / globalised answer (e.g. US-based)?
  5. slightly_unhinged Jedi Master

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    I don't know enough about the situation in Switzerland to comment, but here in the UK it seems to be a mixture of things.

    Here some of the sentiment comes from a feeling of scarcity of resource. Most people have had their pay frozen or cut over the past few years while the cost of living has risen. As people live longer, the proportion of older people grows and puts a greater per-capita strain on our health system. Meanwhile, we have something of a housing crisis where the average house price far exceeds the mortgage available on an average salary, but demand still exceeds supply. I think a lot of people just feel that there's not enough wealth, healthcare or housing to go around and increasing the population will make this worse. This line of thinking seems pretty common in London and some of the bigger cities where these strains are felt the worst. I don't think it amounts to racism and I can see the concern, although I don't entirely agree.

    In some provincial towns - Peterborough springs to mind - a lot of folks are experiencing something of a culture shock and shops with signs in another language are leaving locals confused and enraged. There seems to be a growing swell of xenophobia as a result if UKIP (a party running on an anti-immigration ticket) results are anything to go by. Much of it is faintly ridiculous, along the lines of "this is Britain, doncherknow, we have cream scones, not this pesky makowiec!" but there also seems to be a lot of resentment among young people (we have a high youth unemployment rate). There's definitely a fair bit of racist sentiment out there, and publications like the Daily Mail have a tendency to stir it up with ridiculous predictions about half the population of Romania coming over here to eat our babies or some such. Certainly the fear of people coming here to claim welfare benefits is alive and well. Some of this sentiment is certainly racist.

    I've not looked at any stats on violent crime, but I would be surprised if immigrants were disproportionately represented here in the UK. I'm not sure that is a major concern for other people here, either. Daily Mail readers being a probable exception.

    My own opinion is that we simply need the talent. I know there are exceptions but generally immigrants are coming to the UK to work and are highly motivated to do so, and many have ability that is in short supply. The tech industry is certainly struggling to get the talent it needs now we have an immigration cap. A friend of mine who works for EMC pretty much spends her life tearing hair out because she can't recruit a team with the skills she needs now that overseas talent is rationed. The drop in educational standards here over a decade or more has left much of our homegrown youth unable to compete. It's unfortunate, but blaming immigrants is counter-productive. We need to build strength in our economy in order to start getting out of this mess and importing talent helps.

    In terms of our health service, the influx of people overwhelmingly of working age helps to balance the books; they're paying tax in but not taking much, if anything, out of the NHS. Our housing crisis may be exacerbated slightly, but the core problem is that it doesn't pay to build houses. Developers are sitting on land because they make far more money that way. Building on the scale that's needed would severely cut profit margins, and there's no political will to do anything to upset the baby boom generation who are tickled pink that the house has increased in value at six times the rate of inflation.
  6. Point Given Mod of Literature and Community

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    I believe it's mainly a job insecurity issue that's been exploited by some media (i.e. Daily Mail) and certain political parties to increase sales and membership respectively. Public anger at major political parties in some of the hardest hit European countries for failing to deal with the economic downturn made these alternative parties attractive, and they certainly have tried to keep themselves in the political discourse.

    I've always been amused by the British and French reaction to immigrants, given that they colonized so much of the world. Chickens coming home to roost, and all of that.
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  7. Ender Sai Chosen One

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    Global, for sure. Europe has had a fairly public row with it recently, but so has Australia and America never escapes as an issue.
  8. duende Force Ghost

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  9. JoinTheSchwarz Comms Admin & Community Manager

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    Immigration is a convenient scapegoat, at least in Spain. Most of the "dem takin er jobs" positions are simply not supported by real data.
  10. dp4m Chosen One

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    In America, it ends up being a "strange bedfellows" thing in my opinion through a variety of overarching themes.

    1) The legal immigrants who have emigrated generations ago, who are now upset about "line cutters."
    2) Racists.
    3) Dey're tekken ur jurbs people (usually the most ill-informed group, see below).
    4) African-Americans as a whole voting bloc who typically have animosity with Latinos as a whole voting bloc.
    5) Republicans, who are pro-farmers and anti-immigrants.
    6) Democrats, who view both African-Americans and Latinos as their largest growing voting blocs.
    7) Farmers who typically vote Republican (I think?) and require illegal immigrants.
    8) People who actually like to eat fruits and vegetables at reasonable prices because of #7.
    9) Actual border states who have a whole host of issues surrounding the whole thing.

    In one of those odd side notes, it's one of the few things I truly believed GWB wanted to properly do -- immigration reform; because he was a largely-terrible governor but from a state where this would have been a larger issue. Dani, et al, can tell me how off I was on that, I suppose.

    The problems are: we are never going to get rid of undocumented workers in our agricultural distribution. It's just not going to happen. However, I'm also one of those people who tend to fall into 1 (with a side of "thanks for not taking Polish and other Eastern Euro refugees in the 1930s/40s, USA!") and 8, while also thinking that I'd prefer illegal immigrants to not have rights like voting, driver's licenses, etc. I don't think that particularly makes me #2, but willing to entertain discussion therein...
  11. Point Given Mod of Literature and Community

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    I have a few family members who are like this. They came here during the late 70's/early 80's and don't like illegal immigrants for not going through the same path they did.
  12. Ender Sai Chosen One

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    I think we agree that the job theft argument boils down to stupid, fat, lazy white person is unwilling to do certain tasks that migrants - who lack the stupidity, often white-ness, and entitlement mentality that breeds that thinking - are willing to do.

    But what about a cultural argument. Islam cops it, sometimes unfairly... but sometimes not? After all, more than most religions, it is the least amenable to Western values when the mouthpiece is a hardcore conservative. They share the anti-intellectual hostility and desire to keep populations stupid as conservative Christians, but they tend to favour a more violent approach.

    Should Muslim immigrants be a concern?
  13. dp4m Chosen One

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    I gotta say, I'm not even close to those people (I'm like... 4th generation?) and I have some of that sentiment.
  14. dp4m Chosen One

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    I don't think it should be, as a blanket rule -- but, in general, I am opposed to allowing legal jurisdiction of sharia courts in already-established societies with judicial components (as I am against Jewish Family Court based on Torah, I should add, or any other religious-based judiciary substituting for the actual judiciary).
  15. slightly_unhinged Jedi Master

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    That's a hornets' nest right there.

    Part of me feels that UK actions overseas like our involvement in extraordinary rendition and the torture of a whole bunch of normal people who were going about their lawful business in the wrong place at the wrong time are something that is bound to have repercussions.

    Another part of me has a really visceral hatred of minority ideologies that lead to fatwas for drawing a cartoon or the hacking to death of some poor kid in Woolwich. As much as such views are held only by a tiny minority of muslims and I would never condone any kind of religion or culture-based controls on immigration, I did find it uncomfortable that British libertarianism protected Abu Hamza's right to stay in this country, to preach absolute hatred for Britain and its people and to condone/encourage violent action against us. I suppose I'd like to see a means of deporting people who behave in this way, but I would be really uncomfortable with any law that curtails freedom of speech.
  16. Penguinator RPF Modinator and Batmanager

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    No, muslim immigrants should not be cause for concern or alarm.
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  17. ophelia Cards Against Humanity Host. Ex-Mod

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    I live about 45 minutes from Dearborn, MI, which has the highest population of Arab-Americans in the U.S. They're not all Muslims, obviously, but quite a lot of them are. They're also not all recent immigrants, although a lot of them are that, too. Other than that, Dearborn is an unremarkable inner suburb of Detroit. It's kind of "okay" on everything--crime, income, education, etc. Nobody feels particularly alarmed at the existence of Dearborn. It's just kind of . . . there.
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  18. Lord Vivec Chosen One

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    I'd argue no. The average Muslim isn't going to be an Islamist or fundamentalist. And sure, a few might come alongside the average Muslim, but there are nutcases in every demographic.
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  19. Point Given Mod of Literature and Community

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    I certainly hope not. Half my family is Muslim, and most of them were the ones who immigrated to the U.S. 30 or so years ago, and all have done very well. One of my cousins has become a bit fundamentalist, but he's still a generally nice person as long as the topic of religion doesn't come up.

    I know personal anecdotes don't really count for much, but I feel it needed to be said.
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  20. dp4m Chosen One

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    I think on a larger topic, possibly what prompted Ender's question though I don't wish to put words in his mouth, is: what level of immigration of a vastly like-minded group can start to undermine the existing culture and/or social fabric of the current society absorbing the immigrants (legal or not)? Is that ever a concern and/or should it be?

    I suspect that's what prompts the question in England and France, in particular.

    In the US, it's more with (again) Latino culture I believe (scheduled to be the largest plurality by... 2040ish?)...
  21. Darth Guy Chosen One

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    While "job theft" is obviously an erroneous argument against immigration, I don't fault anyone for not wanting to do the jobs typically reserved for (both legal and illegal) migrants, at least here in the United States. Backbreaking, dangerous, seasonal (so moving multiple times a year, every year is required) agricultural work for below minimum wage? Treated as lower than the dried gum on a Wal-Mart greeter's shoe? Where can I sign up?!

    I remember reading about the labor practices employed by some major slaughterhouses. Labor rights-- and worker safety is particularly important in a slaughterhouse-- theoretically apply to illegal immigrants too, and signs were helpfully posted in both English and Spanish. Problem is the majority of the immigrants were Mayan, and they couldn't read Spanish. Oops!
    Last edited by Darth Guy, Feb 11, 2014
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  22. Ender Sai Chosen One

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    Yeah, just to clarify:

    1) I will from time to time take a kind of devil's advocate stance in my questions, because that's what gets discussion going and people thinking. It also adds layers of nuance to response.

    2) I used to work in Immigration, specifically in promoting the then-Government's agenda and doing so by closely engaging with counterpart agencies to build capacity in source and transit countries for illegal migrants. We tied a lot of it to border security and counter terrorism, which helped greatly.

    Australia has a fairly unique situation; as an island, it's easier to detect and disrupt illegal migration by boat. A lot of noise has been made about our stance on illegal migration to which I'll say this: As at March 2008, categorically, nobody arriving by boat in Australia is a legitimate refugee. The evidence overwhelmingly points to queue jumpers, coached by people smugglers to destroy their documentation if intercepted by the Navy in the hopes that the harder you are to identify, the less likely it is you will be sent home.

    People feel it's racism, or unfair, or whatever - they are flatly and objectively wrong.

    Now, on the positive side - migration I think is a net benefit to countries in most cases. We take for granted how much it enhances our lives, from the decreased racial sensitivity in kids to shared culture and cuisine.

    So I wonder why countries have this backlash, since simplifying it to "RACIST" seems inadequate to me. I'm keen to see if people have a moderate reaction.
  23. Condition2SQ Jedi Grand Master

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    I live in Northern California, which is a very agriculturally oriented region of the state, and I can only shake my head in amazement at the ignorance of much of the anti-immigrant rhetoric that comes from the conservative cognoscenti writing from their tony high-rise offices. I very much doubt people would do most these jobs for three times the minimum wage, to say nothing of what the workers are actually paid. I certainly wouldn't deny xenophobia is responsible for much of this sentiment, but with respect to the sentiment that immigrants should be required to learn English, I think that's overblown. Communication is what fosters the mutually beneficial cultural transmission Ender alluded to.
    Last edited by Condition2SQ, Feb 11, 2014
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  24. Darth Guy Chosen One

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    Most immigrants who want to function outside of their communities must have at least a basic grasp of English. I think it tends to work out fine, and, similarly to most issues regarding immigration, the burden of not knowing the language tends to fall primarily on the immigrant rather than on the people around him. The biggest problem with people complaining about immigrants not learning English (besides just being plain xenophobic) is that they often incorrectly think that English is the official language of the United States-- or, if they are a little bit more knowledgeable, they want to introduce legislation to make it that way. To them, it's a path to remove foreign-language and ESL accommodations from things such as voter registration and schooling, or perhaps rid the country of those indecipherable "Accidentes" bus ads.
    Last edited by Darth Guy, Feb 11, 2014
  25. Penguinator RPF Modinator and Batmanager

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    Just a general question - are we making a distinction between folks seeking asylum/refuge and folks just not following the protocols?