Categorized | Israel & Mideast, USA

Illegal immigration is a global problem

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Ira Sharkansky

By Ira Sharkansky

JERUSALEM–You want to look at a conundrum? (a problem without a solution)

Immigration reform is a good example.
A NYT article describes efforts at producing some kind of amnesty along with “tougher enforcement.”
Can any country control its borders, and also preserve its morality?
Tougher enforcement will mean random deportations while pressure in the source countries will keep the migrants flowing.
And as the NYT article indicates, the ideological desire of conservatives to guard the borders comes up against another ideological principle of the same people: no national identity cards.
It may be possible to cobble together what politicians will applaud as a reform. It might clean the books of some millions presently defined as illegal, and manage to keep a bit of the continuing flow south of the border or on the other side of the barriers in international ports. Then the next generation or half-generation of observers will notice that there are millions of others who have slipped through the safeguards.
Would anyone out there prefer remaining in Mexico, where some 22,000 people have been killed in an undeclared civil war over the last four years? The people most likely at risk if they stay in Mexico are those most likely to risk a great deal in order to reach someplace better. 
European countries are no better off. Their problems are not with Hispanics but with Muslims and other Africans. Perhaps they are a tad worse, insofar as at least some of the Muslims are nastier than Hispanics.
While Hispanics may turn the American White Protestant paradise into something else, the migrants to Europe may extend the Islamic conquest throughout what had been Christian Europe.
Israel’s problems are with Africans who come through the Sinai and over the border from Egypt. Occasionally Egyptian soldiers shoot migrants before they get to the border. It is not the best solution for Israeli moralists. 
Illegal immigrants to Israel aspire to sympathy by saying that they come from Dafur. Some few may actually be Sudanese, but most are  Nigerians, Eritreans, Ghanaians, and a scattering of other Africans.
As elsewhere, the problems are what to do with them? Humanitarians do not want to send them back. Often they cannot be sent back because they come without any documents that would indicate where they should be sent, or what countries should accept them. Some come from countries that have no diplomatic relations with Israel. 
Generally they are allowed to work. As in Europe and America, Israeli restaurants need dishwashers, hotels need maids, and the better neighborhoods need gardeners, house cleaners, and care providers for children and grandparents.
There are occasional sweeps by the immigration police, but random justice does not solve much of the problem. Often it puts individuals in confinement who cannot be sent any place. That keeps the unfortunate from working and supporting themselves, while it provides work for journalists and social activists who lament their treatment.
Illegal immigrants also have children, either with the help of one another or with proper Israelis. Kids born here have citizenship, and present the problem of confining or deporting a parent without the child.
Some illegal immigrants bring children with them. They retain their illegal status while going to school, learning Hebrew, and in some cases serving in the army. They identify as Israelis rather than with a place they do not remember. The messiness of the Law or Return produces situations where non-Jews who immigrated with a Jewish spouse find themselves subject to deportation after a divorce. 
Each of these oddities provides material for the media and problems for the authorities.
And let’s not forget the other significant class of illegal immigrants: Eastern European women.
Some claim to have been duped into thinking they would be waitresses or models. That excuse may have been valid for the first lot of girls leaving their villages in Moldavia or the Ukraine, but is not persuasive as the trade is well beyond its first decade.
Honesty requires one to admit that this migration is no less useful than that of African dishwashers, cleaners, gardeners, and care givers. Some  may claim that the ladies serve Arabs and sailors, but there is also a market among ultra-Orthodox men and other Jews, present company excluded. 
The NYT article suggests that immigration reform is a plaything of politicians trying to please inspired constituents. They want solutions now, without reckoning with next year, or what it might take to actually solve a problem that seems endless, with many Americans who benefit from the work done by the migrants.  
Better to enjoy those restaurant meals, neat gardens, clean houses, and well tended children and grandparents. 
No country that I know of has found an acceptable solution, and it ain’t gonna to come from the US Congress.

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Sharkansky is professor emeritus of political science at Hebrew University

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