Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Poor Third Country Nationals - A Third Category of EU’s Immigration Policy?

By Lidija Knuth, a research fellow at the Kirwan Institute

Where is European Union (EU) migration policy heading? Currently, the EU’s migration policy is focusing on making it more difficult for immigrants to enter Europe through a Pact on Immigration and Asylum which the European Council adopted in October 2008. The fundamental principles set out in the Pact are reflected in a series of measures which will have to be implemented immediately at both EU and national level. Moreover, these principles will also inform the future work programme of the EU, which will be proposed by the Commission in May 2009. One of the Pact’s objectives is to take joint measures against irregular migration. The proposal for the Pact includes speeding up the expulsion of foreigners who are irregularly on the territory of any member state and promoting new agreements with third countries that ensure they will take back their own citizens and also those persons who crossed their territory on the way to an EU state and were found undocumented in a member state. Furthermore, it contains compulsory integration contracts for immigrants aimed at determining whether they have adopted national and European values in addition to the possibility to undertake language tests. It also foresees the collection, retention and use of increasing amounts of biometric data on foreigners to determine where foreigners are at specific times of control.

It must be noted that there is one main exception to this ever stricter approach to third country nationals which is the category of highly skilled and qualified migrants. For this category, the more severe rules are less likely to apply due to the fact that the EU suffers from demographic ageing and will need larger migration flows in the future to minimize this trend.

This latest actions at EU level are necessary but the overall development is troubling. NGOs and civil society organizations working on immigration issues are already concerned about the fragmentation of EU communities along the lines of nationality. On the one hand, it is necessary that they focus their work on the issues raised by the newly proposed Pact and on the clearly exclusionary approach the EU is demonstrating toward third country nationals living in the EU or seeking to come to the EU.

On the other hand, in the debate about migration the EU, consistent with European values of respect for human dignity, equality and respect for human rights, should include the contribution made to Europe’s economy, society and culture by migrants. The denial of rights to many migrants, including asylum seekers, undocumented migrants, and others, not only has a negative effect on the individuals concerned, but also denies European society the added value of their participation in all spheres of society, including civic, political and cultural life.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Musings of a Proud Black Man

By Hasan Kwame Jeffries, Assistant professor in the Department History with a joint appointment at the Kirwan Institute

The day after Barack Obama won the race for the presidency, the New York Times published an article entitled “Near-Flawless Run is Credited in Victory.” In it, the authors attribute Obama’s win to a brilliantly designed and almost perfectly executed campaign strategy. A key tenet of this strategy was to “avoid discussions focused on race.”

Before embarking on his improbable journey, Obama and his closest advisors, including David Axelrod, the campaign’s chief political strategist, and David Plouffe, the campaign manager, determined that Obama’s success depended on White voters not seeing him as being too closely connected to the African American community. “It would be difficult for an African American to be elected president in this country,” said Cornell Belcher, a pollster for the campaign. “However, it is not difficult for an extraordinary individual who happens to be African American to be elected.”

The problem, of course, was white racial prejudice. It was highly unlikely that Whites would vote for a Black candidate who they believed shared the cultural values and political views of the Black community because many Whites see these as antithetical to American cultural and political norms. In truth, however, they are not. There is nothing un-American about Black politics and Black culture. In fact, Black politics has historically pushed America to live up to its democratic claims and Black culture has always been foundational to American culture.

It is impossible not to be excited about the potential for progress in American race relations in the wake of Obama’s victory. My enthusiasm is tempered, however, by the fact that his victory was predicated on white voters not associating him too closely with the African American community. And therein lies my dilemma – I just don’t happen to be Black – I am proud to be Black. I am proud of Black history, Black people, Black political traditions, and Black culture.

Although I look forward to the day that Obama takes office, I also look forward to the day when White voters are not afraid to elect an African American who is unashamedly and unapologetically Black.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Our New Racial Ambassadors: Sasha and Malia Obama

By Wendy Smooth, an assistant professor in the Department of Women’s Studies with a joint appointment at the Kirwan Institute

With the historic election of Barack Obama I find myself overly excited by the thought of two little black girls calling the White House home for the next few years. This is better than any episode of The Cosby Show ever written or imagined. I am convinced that little Sasha and Malia will be our best racial ambassadors. Americans having a bird’s eye view into the life of a real black family will do more for racial understanding and advancement than all the progressive social justice based public policies that we expect from the Obama presidency.

Now I am not placing a burden on little Sasha and Malia to act, behave, or play as “representatives of the race.” I am not expecting them to play Chi-Town style double- dutch on the east lawn—though I would relish hearing the press’ coverage of the long honored tradition of black girlhood. Nor am I angling to see if they are captured carrying Groovy Girl Dolls instead of Barbie. My dream is that they will simply be themselves. In doing so, they will raise the value Americans place on the well-being of little black children everywhere. They will show that little black kids have the same dreams, desires, fears, and needs that all children have. They desire to be safe, secure, and loved. Even more so, my hope is that in Sasha and Malia’s comings and goings, they will help people understand that black children are worth the investment. Americans will see that when you provide children—all children a first rate world class education, they grow and flourish beyond our imagination. Americans will see that all children thrive when they have the best health care, safe playgrounds, and a great place to call home.

The morning after the election I greeted my wide- eyed, gummy grinning little baby boy and between our morning stanzas of “Good Morning to You” I looked into his big beautiful brown eyes and told him that because of what happened last night, he will know a world different from that of his parents. His world would be better. It would certainly be more open, more inclusive, more accepting of difference. I know that my son will have two little black girls to thank for opening the eyes of Americans to the beauty of the black child.

Our little racial ambassadors through their everyday actions of being little girls will prompt Americans to raise the value placed on the lives of all black children. By the end of their eight years of residency at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, I am hopeful that people will develop a new understanding for why black children like all children across this country are worthy of good schools, quality health care, safe neighborhoods, and reliable housing. Sasha and Malia Obama will ignite our political will to act on behalf of all children ensuring the future of this nation.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Unresolved Issues

By Andrew Grant-Thomas, Deputy Director at the Kirwan Institute

Election Day 2008 is tomorrow and, frankly, it’ll be a relief to get this long campaign over with. However, the end of the Campaign 2008 will do little, if anything, to resolve several troubling issues raised along the way. At least three come to mind.

The Vote: In states from Colorado to Ohio, Wisconsin to Florida, the signs of voter suppression are everywhere. Tomorrow, in all likelihood, many thousands of people will be denied their rightful vote because of voter roll purges, registration challenges, over-use of provisional ballots, dysfunctional voting machines, machines that don’t record the intended vote, and more. Sadly, unless we see a repeat of the Florida controversy of 2000, when a very close vote in a key state made the difference in a very close election, these problems will likely be ignored.

Race: Whatever happens tomorrow, Obama’s success confirms that, as a country, we have come very far on race. However, in itself, an Obama victory won't give urban schools full of black and Latino kids the money, books, and excellent teachers they need and affluent white kids' schools have. It won't change the fact that many employers would prefer to hire white men with prison records over black men without records. With lots of people insisting that the Obama phenomenon proves that we have become a colorblind society (it doesn’t; we’re not), I worry that issues of racial justice will lose more of their already-limited purchase on Americans’ attention.

Hate? Where will the racism, misogyny, Islamophobia, xenophobia, and vitriol so manifest over the last year go after the new president is sworn in? By October 2007, the Facebook group, “Hillary Clinton: Stop Running for President and Make Me a Sandwich,” boasted some 30,000 members. The “charge” that Obama is Muslim reverberated for months before one pundit publicly asked the critical question: so what if he were Muslim? A Congresswoman from Minnesota recently urged the media to scrutinize her colleagues’ words and records for possible “Anti-American” sentiment. And in Bexley, Ohio, just outside Columbus, students peacefully protesting a partisan rally were vilified and physically threatened by rally participants.

Campaign 2008 didn’t create these issues and its end won’t put them to rest. President Obama or McCain will have an important role to play in “healing” our country, and both men have promised to embrace that role. But, mostly, it’s on us.