When people in the U.S. talk about immigration and concerns over it, we often forget that the U.S. is not the only country with a large immigrant population or conflicts over how that immigrant population fits into the nation and what the rights of non-citizens are, or ought to be, especially during economic downturns. Of course, there have been, and continue to be, many immigrant streams throughout the world, including large movements of people from former colonies to the former colonizing nations (for instance, the large Algerian population in France) or from economically under-developed areas in Africa and Asia to wealthy places such as Dubai.
Sandra H.N. sent in this poster from Spain that advertised its 2008 voluntary return policy:
English translation of text:
If you’re thinking of returning…the Voluntary Return plan.
There is also a website for the plan (it’s in Spanish). According to an article in the Guardian, unemployed immigrants from certain countries will be paid an advance on unemployment benefits if they agree to return to their home countries and stay for at least three years.
It brings up interesting issues about global immigration and might be useful for reminding students that the U.S. isn’t the only country that workers move to. In fact, one of the groups eligible for Spain’s return program are immigrants from…the United States.
You could also use it to talk about how transnational institutions such as the European Union are affecting ideas about who is an immigrant and how countries can deal with workers who reside in member nations. Spain’s voluntary return plan does not apply to immigrants from EU members. There are likely a number of reasons for that, but one might be that anyone living in the European Union has the right to live and work in any other EU member nation and cannot be treated differently than non-immigrant workers. Should the economic crisis drag on, I suspect we’ll see some conflicts over the EU right to work policy, especially in countries that have significant numbers of immigrants from other EU states residing in them who become scapegoats for economic woes.
UPDATE: In a comment, Ole says,
That has already happened. When the latest (East European) countries joined the EU a few years back some states, like Denmark, had a temporary period where citizens from those “new” states did not have the same rights as other EU-citizens. That temporary period is over now, but there are huge backlashes in Western and Northern Europe against especially Polish (and others) workers in the construction industry (which is always the first to feel economic up- and down-turns). It has been different in different countries. In Denmark the anti-polish sentiment has been rather bad, because “they are taking our jobs” (there is actually a lot of corruption in the business and sometimes Polish workers have been living almost like slaves) but recently the Unions have been doing a good job of trying to say: it’s not about your nationality – you’re welcome to work here under the same contracts as the rest of us. I expect a harsher climate though, as more workers get laid off. In England there was a few weeks ago very problematic demonstrations against “foreign” workers where the racist party BNP exploited the sentiment and the Union was not good at dealing with it at all (there was a real legitimate problem from management deliberately importing “cheap” labor – but the reaction was so dangerous: for a union to support extreme-right slogans like “british jobs for british workers” is a sign of the deteriorated state of British labor organizing).
Thanks for the insight!