Global Xenophobia: A Rundown of Immigration News

October 2nd, 2010 

Germany – The burden of being German
new poll showed that 55% of Germans thought Muslims “cost considerably more socially and financially than they produce economically.” In addition, 60% of respondents said they agreed with controversial author Thilo Sarrazin, who said that immigrants were making the country “dumber.”

France – Revoking citizenship from the ‘unworthy’
Eric Besson, the French Immigration minister, wants to strip naturalized French citizens of their nationality if they threaten a police officer. He also wants the authority to deport people who are found guilty of “aggressive begging.” Back in July, Besson’s boss President Nicolas Sarkozy, said, “French nationality should be earned. One must know how to be worthy of it.”

Sweden – Fear of the “unSwedish” appears in election politics
The Sweden Democrats, a party known for anti-immigrant rhetoric, won 20 seats in a recent parliamentary election. The group claims that an “unSwedish,” Islamic Revolution could sweep the country.

Netherlands – An anti-Islam crusader comes to power
With the support of extremist politician Geert Wilders, a new cabinet in the Netherlands has announced plans to “control and curb” immigration and ban the burqa in public. Wilders, who recently made an appearance at a Ground Zero rally, faces a court trial on charges of hate speech and inciting violence.

U.S. – The Dream Act turns nightmarish in the Senate
Along with a measure to repeal “don’t ask, don’t tell,” the DREAM Act died again in the U.S. Senate. Democrats hope to reintroduce the bill after the election season folly ceases to dominate the political climate. If adopted, the Act will offer undocumented immigrants a path to citizenship if they enroll in college or the military.

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Midterm Elections: The End of (Primary) Days

September 15th, 2010 

Primary season went out with a bang on Tuesday night; voters in DelawareNew York and D.C. delivered a string of upsets to party stalwarts. With less than 50 days until midterms, the fate of the Republican establishment is at risk, and Democratic control of the House is in jeopardy. However, one tradition remains unchallenged: the politics of immigration continues to appear on the legislative docket and in the news cycle.

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In Germany, the Genetics Debate Lives On

August 31st, 2010 

Thilo Sarrazin believes that foreigners are “dumbing down” German society, that “all Jews share the same gene” and that “hereditary factors” are to blame for the generally low academic standings of Turkish students.

Although Sarrazin’s comments are extreme, he’s not a voice on the fringe of German politics. Rather, Sarrazin is part of the mainstream debate; he’s a former finance minister of Berlin (SPD– Social Democratic Party), who currently serves on the board of the Bundesbank, Germany’s federal bank.

The contentious statements were made in Sarrazin’s new book, “Germany is Digging its Own Grave.” Sarrazin argues that immigrants are not only a burden on Germany’s financial system, but also a threat to the country’s demographics. “I don’t want the country of my grandchildren and forefathers to be in broad swathes Muslim, where Turkish and Arabic is widely spoken, where women wear headscarves and where the daily rhythm of life is set by the call of the muezzins,” wrote Sarrazin in an extract.

Both Chancellor Angela Merkel and the Bundesbank rebuked Sarrazin, but he remained unfazed at a book launch on Monday. “I invite everyone to find discrepancies in my theories…It’s an uncomfortable discussion, but to solve problems we have to first recognize them.”

Recognizing the problems of minorities and foreigners in Germany is not a difficult task. Statistics concerning high unemployment and low graduation rates in immigrant communities are not up for debate. The “uncomfortable discussion” arises because Sarrazin believes genetics are to blame.

“It doesn’t take much to think that hereditary factors might be responsible for the failure of some of the Turkish population in the German school system,” writes Sarrazin.

It’s not the lack of German language training for foreign students. Or the abundance of socio-economic challenges, which affect schools, teachers and students in immigrant communities. According to Sarrazin, an immigrant’s genetics is second-rate, and therefore responsible for substandard academic performance. If an entire community is condemned to inferiority by their DNA, why throw money and resources their way?

The hereditary characteristics of non-Germans are often questioned in mainstream policy debates. In June, Peter Trapp, a policymaker for Chancellor Angela Merkel’s party (CDU – Christian Democrats), proposed intelligence assessments for immigrants. “We must define immigration criteria that really serve our country…Besides a good education and professional qualifications, the benchmark must also be intelligence. I am for intelligence tests for immigrants.”

Sarrazin is correct – Germany’s future is threatened. But not by foreigners and their genetic makeup. Rather by the country’s attitude towards immigrants and the policies that follow. If Germany’s elected officials refuse to lift the rhetoric from the grips of xenophobia, then the debate is indeed destined to fail.

Here are a few quotes from Sarrazin’s book as translated by The Guardian:

  • “Muslim immigration is connected more strongly than any other with welfare state dependency and criminality.”
  • “With no other religion is there such a fluid connection between violence, dictatorship and terrorism as there is with Islam.”
  • “Boys are taught an exaggerated idea of the readiness to be violent … for the sake of ‘honor’. Young men take this role all the more seriously the less successful they are in the school system – where their performance is still much worse than that of Muslim girls.”
  • “In Berlin 20% of all acts of violence are carried out by only 1,000 Turkish and Arabic youths, a population group that makes up just 0.3% of the entire Berlin population.”
  • “A measure of a willingness to integrate is the attitude towards marriage, which steers the speed at which a society comes together … In this regard things are looking bad, because only 3% of young men and 8% of young women with a Turkish migrant background marry Germans partner. Among Russians of German descent the figure, by contrast, is 67%.”
  • “The proportion of congenital disabilities is way above average among Turkish and Kurdish migrants. However, the topic is hushed up. It doesn’t take much to think that hereditary factors might be responsible for the failure of some of the Turkish population in the German school system.”

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Japan’s Tea Party

August 30th, 2010 

Drawing inspiration from Tea Party protests in America, political activists in Japan are waging a vocal campaign against foreigners.

As reported by Martin Fackler in The New York Times, members of an ultranationalist movement in Japan are gaining attention for their brazen demonstration tactics, such as picketing a Korean primary school and wearing “expel barbarian” armbands.

Working as a netroots campaign throughout Japan, the largest anti-immigrant faction has about 9,000 members and is meticulously titled, “Citizens Group That Will Not Forgive Special Privileges for Koreans in Japan.” According to Fackler, the group’s founder, a 38-year old tax accountant, “studied videos of Tea Party protests, and shared with the Tea Party an angry sense that his nation had gone in the wrong direction because it had fallen into the hands of leftist politicians, liberal media as well as foreigners.”

While right wing groups in Japan and the U.S. may share hostile sentiments and raucous methods, the brain behind the Tea Party movement is not your average tax accountant. Rather, as detailed in “Covert Operations,” an explosive article by New Yorker reporter Jane Mayer, the Tea Party movement is the invention of politically savvy billionaires – the Koch brothers.

The Kochs, oil magnates and two of the wealthiest men in America, “are longtime libertarians who believe in drastically lower personal and corporate taxes, minimal social services for the needy, and much less oversight of industry—especially environmental regulation. These views dovetail with the brothers’ corporate interests,” writes Mayer. “The anti-government fervor infusing the 2010 elections represents a political triumph for the Kochs. By giving money to “educate,” fund, and organize Tea Party protesters, they have helped turn their private agenda into a mass movement.”

Here are a couple of links to the “Kochtopus” and Japan’s anti-immigration groups in action:

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A Stained Conscience

August 25th, 2010 

Philanthropist George Soros took aim at “Europe’s conscience” on Wednesday, a week after France expelled hundreds of Roma from a settlement in La Courneuve.

“The greatest divide between the Roma and majority populations is poverty and inequality,” wrote Soros in an open letter to European heads of state. “The plight of so many millions of Roma in the 21st century makes a mockery of European values and stains Europe’s conscience.”

There are approximately 10 to 12 million Roma currently living in Europe, many in poverty and on the margins of society. The Roma – often referred to as Gypsies – have faced persecution in Europe since the 14th century. During World War II, the Roma were systematically targeted by the Nazis and between 200,000 and 800,000 were killed.

French riot police delivered the latest wave of expulsion orders, which are part of President Nicolas Sarkozy’s effort to crackdown on crime. France’s immigration minister Eric Besson said that by the end of August, “around 950” Roma will have been deported to Romania and Bulgaria. The NYTimes reports that after the La Courneuve raid, 100 Roma were flown to Romania in exchange for $385 each.

France is not the only nation with an expulsion policy: Germany is currently deporting some 10,000 Roma to Kosovo. Many of those facing expulsion had sought asylum in Germany during the 1998-99 Kosovo Conflict. More than 5,000 children will be deported, according to a study by the United Nation’s Children’s Fund. “Children are the ones most affected by these forced returns,” the report concluded. “They have all grown up in Germany, many of them were born in this country, and do not speak any language other than German.”

On behalf of the Catholic Church, German Pope Benedict XVI also spoke out against the deportations. On Sunday, he advised people “to accept legitimate human diversity” and asked parents to “educate your children in universal fraternity.”


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Not in Your Backyard

August 23rd, 2010 

On August 20, WNYC radio host Brian Lehrer addressed a very exclusive group of listeners: New Yorkers who live or work in Tribeca.

Tribeca is the proposed location for Park51, an Islamic cultural center, more commonly (and incorrectly) identified as the “Ground Zero Mosque.” Lehrer wanted to hear from members of the local community: What did they think of Park51? Did they agree with Newt Gingrich?

“The national media forgets this is ultimately a local land-use issue…” said Lehrer. “So just block out the national media for a few minutes, forget Keith Olbermann, forget Bill O’Reilly. Tribeca, it’s just us now.”

Over 12 minutes, Lehrer spoke with 8 callers: all of them emphatically endorsed the Islamic center. Some callers criticized elected officials for using Park51 as a “political football.” Others noted that the director of Park51, Feisal Abdul Rauf, is an upstanding neighbor, who has been an imam at a local mosque since 1983.

“More fodder for the theory that the further you get from Lower Manhattan, the more unpopular the Mosque is,” Lehrer concluded.

Enter Geert Wilders.

He’s a right-wing politician from the Netherlands, who regularly launches verbal attacks against Muslims and immigrants. He has called for a tax on headscarves and compared the Koran to “Mein Kampf.”

Wilders and other members of the “Stop Islamization of America and Freedom Defense Initiative” will gather at Ground Zero on 9/11, and shout until their hearts’ content.

“I will go to New York and say what I want there. Nobody will stop me. No mosque at Ground Zero!” Wilders remarked.

It’s true – nobody will prevent Wilders from speaking or protesting. Those rights, along with the freedom to practice any religion, are unassailable.

Posted in 1st Amendment, Ground Zero, Headscarf, Legal, Mosque, New York City,  |  Comments Off

Midterm Elections: 70 Days and Counting

August 23rd, 2010 

With elections around the corner, many politicians have abandoned reason in favor of nifty phrases, like anchor babyand terrorist-sympathizing imam.” Immigration reform is a perennial campaign promise, but this year, questions of citizenship rights have dominated the headlines and divided the Republican Party. Here’s a quick primer on immigration politics in the 2010 midterm elections:


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