United States and Spain Square off on Amnesty

Visiting Spain with Rotary International, I was struck by the diametrically different way this country was constructed. In the United States, the basic premise is that if corporations and businesses succeed, then people will likewise be successful. As a result, corporations and big businesses get tax breaks with the idea that it will then trickle down to the general populace. Spain’s laws, however, are organized with a dipolar paradigm, that if people are satisfied then businesses will do well.

I traveled Spain with minimum insurance, knowing full well that if I were sick I would be treated for free because of their socialized health-care system. When asked about their country’s healthcare system and the resulting 50% taxes, every single Spaniard I met voiced the fact that this was the only fair way to do healthcare. Rich businessmen and down-and-out vagrants all said that it was only right to make sure everybody got their basic needs met, irregardless of their income.

Spanish legislation has taken this one step further by providing basic human rights and opportunities to all immigrants, whatever their legal status. Deportation doesn’t exist in Spain; instead, the emphasis is on integration. No country in the world has run more legalization programs than this European Union nation. Just a decade ago, a mere 2% of Spaniards were immigrants. That number has risen to nearly 10%. (New York Times, June 10, 2008)

The marvel is that Spain not only attracts immigrants but also provides for them and their family’s assimilation. Immigrants are provided free health insurance, and in the six legalization programs since 1985, all working immigrants were eligible to become legalized citizens. And the education system has been revamped to integrate these new immigrant families into Spanish society, even though two of the top five sending countries – Romania and Morocco – do not speak Castellano Spanish. ((New York Times, June 10, 2008)

Perhaps even more telling is the government’s rationale for these legalization programs. In the United States, Reagan was decried for his Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 because it provided amnesty to millions of extralegal working citizens. Syndicates and the general populace criticized Reagan by stating that amnesty only encourages more illegal immigration, although this has less to do with amnesty programs and more to do with overly restrictive quotas and demoralizing lottery systems. Spain’s reasons for their six legalization programs were, in part, to ensure that lawbreaking employers were not given a competitive edge. However, the major reason espoused by all government officials is social rather than economic. Jesús Caldera, who was labor minister during one of these legalization programs, stated in the New York Times yesterday that, “If you practice exclusion, you risk the future of your country. You risk terrorism, violence.”

From here in rural Minnesota, there is little I can do to actively oppose the border wall in la frontera, a border wall initially proposed to stop illegal immigration. But I can work to change public opinion, the prevailing nativist rhetoric, and ultimately the antiquated and criminalizing laws which produce illegal immigrants rather than facilitate legal migration. We all can.

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2 Responses to “United States and Spain Square off on Amnesty”

  1. Scott Nicol Says:

    Spreading the struggle against the border wall from the southern border to the rest of the nation is critical. Too much of the rest of the nation sees this as a not-in-my-backyard issue, rather than one of national significance. The Secure Fence Act and Real ID Act are federal legislation, passed by the US Congress and signed by the president. It is therefore incumbent upon Congress and the President to reverse these destructive laws, which were passed for no reason other than whipping up anti-immigrant sentiment to keep conservative members of Congress in office. The Secure Fence Act was signed 2 weeks ahead of the midterm election, and with another federal election looming the immigration boogeyman is being brought out again. For members of Congress from non-border states, it makes perfect sense to destroy the border to placate voters and stay in office. Their constituents will not see the damage, so from their perspective there is no price to pay. For you, and everyone else who cares about this issue who lives far from the border, it is critical to make sure that your members of Congress see the damage that a border wall will bring. This is not abstract fear-mongering. As you know, the will will destroy real homes, real farms, and real wildlife refuges.

  2. They Say Deport - We Say Support!: Pro-Migrant SanctuarySphere « American Humanity Says:

    […] Smart Borders United States and Spain Square off on Amnesty. Spanish legislation has taken this one step further by providing basic human rights and […]

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