Meeting with Dr. “Steven” Ordog, the Hungarian Deputy Minister of Immigration, it was fascinating to hear him speak about his country’s reformation of their border patrol, their struggle with integration, and his hopes to make asylum issues more of an important subject in public discourse. [CAT Report]
When Hungary joined the E.U. in 2004, they began the process of dissembling their elite border patrol and transitioning this role to the regular police. In Hungary, as with many eastern European countries, the Border Patrol had been the crème de la crème, outfitted with the best technology, public acclaim, and pay. With their new permeable border, Hungary changed its border enforcement to the regular police, much to the dismay of those who had appreciated their power in these much sought-after positions. [For more information, visit: http://europa.eu/abc/european_countries/eu_members/hungary/index_en.htm]
As Dr. Ordog spoke of the problems with the Border Patrols’ treatment of some Somalis and other minorities, it was hauntingly close to home. In his country, these “protectors of the border” were trained to use whatever force necessary and sometimes abused this power, particularly against asylum-seekers. In Hungary, once asylum-seekers report their asylum claim to the office of immigration, they are protected until the resolution of that claim. Some members of the Hungarian Border Patrol, however, would patrol the grounds outside this office, picking up asylum-seekers mere meters away from the front door of safety. The Border Patrol praised such action for a time, as it considerably boosted their number of apprehensions and public image.
In the United States, the reverse is true creating similarly perverse incentives. If an asylum-seeker shows up at a border crossing or a port of entry and asks for asylum, that individual is whisked away to a detention center until their asylum petition is either granted or denied. This creates the incentive for asylum-seekers to enter the U.S. and keep their asylum petition secret until they have done the requisite research.
Dr. Ordog also spoke about Hungary’s struggle to integrate the Somali and Iraqi refugees in his country. Traditionally, these resettled refugees have viewed Hungary as a gateway country en route to Scandinavia or other European economies. As a result, integration services were minimal because these migrants were expected to leave soon.
Ordog worries that insufficient integration mechanisms for the growing number who have decided to stay could spell trouble for Hungary’s future. Hungary is still largely a native-born, white population, and minorities will undoubtedly struggle to get jobs, learn Hungarian, and find housing. Racial discrimination is rampant and not explicitly illegal. House showings can turn into racial profiling, and job interviews might turn into status quo screenings. Although the current number of immigrants to Hungary is scant, Ordog worries that they are ill-prepared for any increase in immigration
As Dr. Ordog spoke, the themes of integration, nativism, and fear of outsiders all rang loud and clear. Though America certainly deals with more immigrants annually, it is similarly confronted with the quality of its welcome.