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Sunday, May 15, 2011

Immigration: An International Issue

President Obama this week talked about passing the DREAM Act in Texas after it was blocked in the last congress which was controlled by his party.  The act gives a path to citizenship for aliens (legal or illegal) who came to the US as minors, have good moral character, graduated high school or attended college, and served two years in the US Military. Now that the lower house is controlled by the Republicans it's passage is at best uncertain.

Last summer considerable controversy was generated when Arizona passed a law requiring local law enforcement to check the immigration status of anyone suspicious.  The law is now tied up in legal challenges and has prompted boycotts of the state but Gov. Jan Brewer who signed the law easily won reelection with 55% of the vote.  In Arizona, Maricopa County Sherriff Joe Arpaio caused controversy from groups like Amnesty International prior to passage of the immigration law by rounding up illegal immigrants in tent cities in blistering summer heat. 

Arpaio along with former Colorado Congressman, 2008 Presidential Candidate, and 2010 Gubernatorial Candidate (where he came in second as an independent candidate ahead of the Republican) Tom Tancredo and former PA Senator and current Presidential Candidate Rick Santorum  are now at the forefront of the campaign against illegal immigration.  All three men like to tout their Italian American roots.  Tancredo in 2008 introduced a bill requiring immigrants from Islamic countries to swear that they will not try to impose Sharia Law here in the US and criticized removing the requirement of proof of US Citizenship for children to receive health insurance in SCHIP by Congress.  Santorum has supported making English the official language of the US.  These men do not seem to remember that many of the same criticisms leveled at immigrants (legal or illegal) today were the same leveled at Italian and other immigrant groups about a century to a century and a half ago.

Little reported in the US is what has been driving illegal immigration from Mexico is a violent drug war in the border region.  Many are fleeing it and the general poverty in Latin America for a better life just as the earlier immigrants did.  Immigration laws were different in the late 19th and early 20th centuries than they are today. 

Now that Europe is more prosperous than it was a century ago, they have many immigrants from Eastern Europe, Africa, and China.  When I traveled to Italy several years ago I heard many complain about immigration there from places like Albania and North Africa.  What they said sounded very similar to what Arpaio, Santorum, and Tancredo say.  One of the reasons behind NATO's intervention in Libya is of course oil but another is worries over a flood of refugees from North Africa.

As a result of this war French President Nicolas Sarkozy (the son of a Hungarian immigrant) and Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi (who is under indictment for corruption and statutory rape charges in Italy and has complimented President Obama on a couple occasions on his "great tan") have requested to change the Schengen treaty which allows for passport free passage between 25 European Countries.  This change would allow for setting up checkpoints within participating countries.


Fortress Europe? There is a better way

**Update**


2 Political Junkies has a post on how Rick Santorum will announce his bid to become President of the United States near the coal fields where his immigrant grandfather worked.  He should read posts like these first.

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