Part II – Does Immigration Per Se Have Social and Political Costs?

After his section on patterns of immigration, David Frum inserted a bald-faced claim: “large-scale immigration also comes with considerable social and political costs, and those must be accounted for.” He does not qualify the assertion by adding “in the United States of America” or even the USA and European countries. He suggests the reaction to “high” migration levels is universal. He quotes Hilary Clinton making a similar observation about Europe and advising: “‘We are not going to be able to continue to provide refuge and support—because if we don’t deal with the migration issue, it will continue to roil the body politic.” What are those social and political costs?

It is certainly true that in most European countries, that have traditionally not been recipients of large-scale migration, a majority of the population opposes migration at current levels into their country:

France           63%

Germany      58%

Greece         82%

Hungary      72%

Italy             71%

Sweden        52%

However, there are exceptions:

Netherlands 39%

Poland         49%   

Spain           30%

UK               30%

The latter figure may seem odd since much of the commentary on Brexit has stated that a major reason for Britons wanting to exit the EU is the issue of control over immigration. Yet Frum concludes that, “Thanks in great part to their anti-immigration messages, populist parties now govern Italy, Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic.” On 23 October 2017, Frum had written an article in The Atlantic entitled, “The Toxic Politics of Migration in the Czech Republic,” in which he bemoaned that another populist anti-establishment politician had come to power, largely, he claimed, on the back of an anti-immigration backlash. The rose to power of anti-immigrant populists threatened democracy and Frum made it very clear that, to save democracy he was willing to curtail immigration.

Yet Frum made it clear that the reaction in the Czech Republic was much more to the corruption and self-promotion of the former communist elite. Further, that newly-rich elite bought up and controlled the media. Nor was the problem rooted in a collapsing economy. “[T]he Czech Republic has boasted one of the highest growth rates and lowest unemployment rates on the European continent.” Nor was the problem rooted in a rural hinterland or former abandoned industrial areas ignored by a globalist international elite since 1 in 8 Czechs live in Prague and, when Slovakia split away from Czechoslovakia, so were the heavy industrial and mining areas.

Why then? Did the fact that the Czech Republic shifted from a parliamentary democracy towards a presidential system by allowing the president to be elected directly by the voters in 2012 even though initially he was assigned few powers? Was it because the leading politicians buddied up to Vladimir Putin and opposed sanction against Russia for invading the Ukraine? The big change took place in 2017 when the Social Democracy Party was decimated and the authoritarian anti-immigrant party, Civic Democrats, took a significantly increased number of seats. However, Andrew Babis still won because the truly democratic parties of the Czech Republic had failed “to respond to mass migration from Africa and the Middle East.”

According to Frum, the canary in the coal mine was mass migration. In 2015, Babis saved his reputation as corrupt because of the mass influx of migrants into Europe and Angela Merkel’s policy decision to welcome them and the pressure Germany brought on its fellow EU members to share the burden. This was the critical factor that saved Babis in the Czech Republic and Viktor Orban in Hungary and allowed the Law and Justice Party to win in Poland in the 2015 elections – in spite of the fact that Poland stood out as one of the few European countries in which a majority of its citizens did not oppose an increased immigration intake. But fewer Poles are urbanized compared to Czechs and Poland has a decrepit industrial and mining sector. Is it possible that, whereas mass migration may have been a factor, and even an important factor, in stimulating the shift to the Right in the Czech Republic, the feelings of those deserted by the new economy may have been more important than the immigration issue in Poland where anti-immigration may only have been the icing on a cake of grievances.

Frum claimed that, “Anti-refugee feeling prevailed in Austria, where on October 16 [2017] an absolute majority of the population voted for immigration restrictionist parties: 31.6 percent for the People’s Party, and 27.4 percent for the Freedom Party.” This month in Austria, the right-wing head of Austria’s Freedom Party pledged to fight “creeping Islamisation.” Austria’s far-right Freedom Party compared immigrants to rats. The new coalition has been responsible for the most draconian anti-immigration efforts in Europe. But the right-wing coalition collapsed when Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz called for elections when his far-right deputy vice chancellor and head of the Freedom Party, Heinz-Christian Strache, resigned from both offices in the wake of a corruption video scandal suggesting his willingness to obtain government contracts in return for donations.

Further, surveys by Statistic Austria revealed that the major factor behind the rising and vocal opposition to immigrants has been the question of management and control rather than anti-immigrant sentiment per se. For pro- and anti-sentiments have been more or less balanced for decades. In 2014, 48.6% of Austrians thought integration had been working well. This year, that number slipped to 45% and the skeptical sentiments increased to 55%.  

The problem in 2015 may be rooted in the turbulence of the refugee crisis rather than a majority anti-immigrant sentiment as the immigration debate came to the fore and anti-immigration sentiment was given more salience. As Rita Garstenauer, Director of Austria’s Centre for Migration Research, stated, “If we follow the assumption that approval and disapproval in the population are at a relatively constant ratio of 50:50, then the disapproving half is more articulate nowadays, and also politically more mobilized.”

Frum himself offered a radically different explanation for the right-wing populist backlash rather than anti-immigrant sentiment, “public disgust with politics as usual.” Ironically, the careers of men like Trump and Babis provide the very proof of the claim that the swamp needs to be drained.  Cynicism rather than anti-immigrant sentiment may offer a greater in-depth explanation, a cynicism reinforced by an impression of crumbling governmental management of the immigrant pressure and greater leadership and legitimation of anti-immigrant feeling.

What then are the factors behind the rise in expressed anti-immigrant feeling? First, the needs and rights of the native-born population are not balanced against the needs of migrants and refugees but, arguably, the latter trump the rights of the former but the former ought to trump the rights of the latter. There is resentment against sharing the accumulated wealth of the nation with newcomers. The characterization of those newcomers as threats to the culture reinforces anti-immigration sentiments. So do the claims that these people are security risks, both to rising crime levels and to the state as a whole.

For example, in a hysterical style of reporting for Gatestone, Soeren Kern on 20 May 2019 reported that in Spain, a country relatively tolerant of immigrants:

  • The Madrid city council, run by Mayor Manuela Carmena, in a case study of political correctness run amok, ordered police to keep out of the neighborhood of Lavapiés, one of the most “multicultural” districts of the Spanish capital, to “avoid situations of tension.”
  • In Madrid, an elderly couple returning home from vacation discovered that their apartment had been “occupied” by African migrants. When a camera crew from the Madrid television channel Telecinco went to investigate, the migrants destroyed the camera…. Spain’s notoriously lethargic justice system now rules on who is the apartment’s rightful owner.
  • Six African migrants gang-raped a 12-year-old girl in a small town near Madrid, but Spanish authorities kept information about the crime hidden from the public for more than a year, apparently to avoid fueling anti-immigration sentiments.
  • On March 15, 2018, the 12-year-old girl was playing in a park in Azuqueca de Henares with several other girls when, at around one o’clock in the afternoon, six migrants — five Moroccans and one Nigerian — approached the playground. They carried two of the girls off to a nearby abandoned building, but then let one of them go after discovering that she was a Muslim. The migrants, aged between 15 and 20, grabbed the 12-year-old by her arms and legs and took turns raping her, first anally and then vaginally, for nearly an hour.

The anecdotes above should be enough to turn anyone against immigrants, especially Muslim ones who are the main target of Gatestone. However, a more detached analysis is required.


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