After years of open-borders policies, many European countries are beginning to see the effects of uncontrolled immigration and are returning to pro-enforcement agendas. British prime minister David Cameron recently came under criticism for saying that an “influx of immigrants sometimes [leads] to ‘discomfort and disjointedness’.” And earlier this year, he declared that Europe’s multiculturalism experiment had failed.
These are not extremist statements, they simply acknowledge the fact that uncontrolled immigration without assimilation is a recipe for disaster. And the UK is not the only European nation waking up to this reality. French president Nicolas Sarkozy said in a recent interview, “If you come to France, you accept to melt into a single community, which is the national community, and if you do not want to accept that, you cannot be welcome in France.”
These comments indicate European nations’ growing concern that decades of open-borders policies have destabilized their communities. There is a great deal to be learned from Europe’s mistakes, especially since advocates of the same immigration policies that have failed Europe are trying to influence the American immigration system.
The United States already has the most generous immigration system in the world, admitting 1 million legal immigrants each year. But the open-borders crowd wants more. They want amnesty for the 11 million or more illegal immigrants already in the U.S. They oppose efforts to turn off the jobs magnet that draws millions of illegal immigrants to the U.S. each year. And they criticize calls for immigrants to assimilate to American culture.
If we want to see the long-term effects of open-borders policies, we need only look across the Atlantic.
The Arizona Republic recently reported that “Spain embraced immigrants for years, with wave after wave of amnesty programs. Then the economy collapsed. Today, Spain is trying to seal its borders.”
In France, President Sarkozy began a crackdown on illegal immigration in an effort to curb crime. According to the Washington Post, the French law “reflects swelling concern in West European countries over large numbers of immigrants pouring in to seek work, political freedom and generous social services.” The Post also reported that in 2010 “the French government introduced tough new immigration legislation that would make it easier to expel illegal residents” and “strip French nationality from citizens naturalized fewer than 10 years who are convicted of attacking a police officer or government official.”
Similar problems exist in the east, where recently the European Union rushed to secure a portion of the Greece–Turkey border after an influx of immigrants sneaking into the country brought instability to the region.
And according to the Wall Street Journal, Italy recently began working with Libya to “help stem the flow of illegal immigrants from Africa to Europe.” These illegal immigrants account for a “disproportionate amount of crime,” reports The Economist.
Lax enforcement of immigration laws also poses a serious nation-security threat. We know that terrorists exploit weaknesses in our immigration system. In fact, four of the 9/11 hijackers overstayed their visas.
The threat from radical-Islamic terrorists has caused some European nations to crack down on visa applications.
Reuters reported last year that “Britain is to tighten the rules on immigrants entering Britain on a student visa … in a clampdown on a system which some security experts say has been exploited by Islamist militants.”
A terrorist attack last December in Stockholm prompted Sweden to consider tightening its immigration policies. The BBC reports that “there has been resentment at immigration as the economy has stuttered, and some Muslims have grown more militant.”
Neighboring Denmark recently agreed to further restrict immigration, and now has “one of Europe’s toughest stances on immigration,” Reuters reports.
The pro-enforcement shift around the world has not been due to a dislike for immigrants. It has happened out of necessity. Countries must promote policies that help their economy, safeguard their citizens, and confront the terror threat.
European leaders have learned the hard way that assimilation does not mean separate communities simply living side by side. It is about the merging of peoples into one national community.
Open-borders policies misunderstand the purpose, intent, and importance of these immigration principles. America is not the only nation trying to address weaknesses in our immigration system. But to avoid making the same mistakes as Europe, we must do more to enforce our immigration laws and secure our nation.
— Rep. Lamar Smith is chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, which deals with immigration policy and national security.