The United States may be the great melting pot, with our myriad of
ethnicities, but we are hardly the only country to worry about
immigration.  I’d even say that while we have a lot to work on, the US
does comparatively well on the Immigration Scorecard.  C+, B- maybe.

Europe, on the other hand, has a whole range of immigration policies
from a warm welcome to fire and pitchforks (figuratively of course… I
hope).  We should pay attention to Europe’s response to immigration
because their efforts and complaints mirror many of our own.  So today I
present to you two European countries, one that has a disappointing, xenophobic
policy, and one that I give a full two thumbs up; Switerland and Ireland.

For being in the heart of Europe, and clearly marked by a mix of several
cultures including German and French, the rampantly racist political messages
that are floating around the country shocked me at first.  Three white
sheep stand on one side of the border.  The other side of the border
stands a black sheep, clearly prohibited from crossing that line.  The
message is clear and is gaining ground with many Swiss.  "The message
of the party resonates loudly among voters who have seen this country of 7.5
million become a haven for foreigners, including political refugees from places
like Kosovo and Rwanda." Says the New York Times (10/08/2007).

There are many reasons why so many Swiss are in favor of absurd immigration controls,
such as a required 12 years of residency to even be considered for citizenship
and mandatory identification cards, Researching them gave me an eerie
reminder of my life as an ethnic and national minority in Japan. Much like Japan, the “official” reasons for
xenophobia in Switzerland are security. They claim that immigrants, especially from poorer Eastern Europe or
Africa, are more likely to engage in crime.

This argument both countries give to the world is weak however. Statistically speaking crime is higher in
this demographic, but so is poverty. It
is more difficult for immigrants to find the jobs they need to raise their
positions and become stable members of society, when employers look for
citizenship and exhibit racial preferences.

Looking at Ireland, we can observe how a welcoming society, while not free
of issues, can greatly change the people immigrants become for the better. Time Magazine detailed in their September 17th
issue, the life of Rotimi Adebari, a man straight out of Africa who settled in
Ireland, became a citizen, and recently won the mayoral election in his adopted
town. The full article can be read
here: http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1659713,00.html

While even Adebari admits that since his immigration, times have changed in
Ireland, we can see two paths in this debate; segregation and exclusion which
leads to immigrant vilification and increased instability, or we can see
cooptation, where countries make immigrants welcome residents in their own
right, and immigrants respond by adopting patriotism and passion for their new
land.

The United States is stuck somewhere in-between these
two policies. Can we have the fortitude
to get beyond petty apprehensions and underlying ethnic tensions to embrace new
citizens, or will we never see an end to the regulations, the walls, the
attempt at isolation that limits us as a nation?

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