Like many Americans, I am horrified by the brutality many illegal immigrants encounter when they flee atrocious living conditions in their home countries.
But, unlike the Obama Administration and certain federal court judges, I am not confused about where this brutality takes place: not in Arizona or other American states, but in a diverse group of countries, including those with the gall to berate America for its fair and just immigration laws.
Consider Mexico, where, until 2008, illegal immigrants were handed prison sentences of one-and-a-half to ten years. Though that law was reformed, Mexican police are still required to check the immigration status of people they suspect are in the country illegally, and to hand over migrants to immigration authorities.
Illegal immigrants often receive brutal treatment from Mexico’s notoriously corrupt police. A recent Amnesty International report found that immigrants to Mexico regularly face abuse, kidnappings and rape, often with police involvement.
According to the National Human Rights Commission, over a recent six-month period, 91 migrants were kidnapped and held for ransom in Mexico with the direct participation of the Mexican police. As one migrant told USA Today, “There (in the United States), they’ll deport you. In Mexico they’ll probably let you go, but they’ll beat you up and steal everything you’ve got first.”
Conditions aren’t much better in Europe. In 2006, Swiss voters toughened immigrations laws to make it nearly impossible for unskilled workers outside Europe to move into the country. And refugees can be imprisoned for as long as two years.
Illegal immigrants in Italy must pay fines as high as $15,000 and can be detained for as long as six months. A new Italian law permits the formation of unarmed citizen patrol groups to help police keep order.
And in Britain, the Tories recently ascended to power promising to cut immigration by 75%. Not what you might expect on a continent that’s projected to lose more than 50 million workers over the next few decades amid plummeting birth rates.
Employers in many Middle East countries have strict control over migrant workers’ ability to change jobs and leave the country. And, according to the U.S. Committee for Refugees (USCR), most Palestinian refugees in Lebanon live in squalid camps and are barred from hospitals, schools and most jobs.
The Australian government compulsorily detains all persons entering the country without a valid visa, including, until recently, asylum seekers. And in 2009, Japan began paying legal immigrants (mainly from Latin America) to leave the country for good.
North Korean refugees in China are regularly returned to the Hermit Kingdom, where they may face prison camps or execution. China represses many of its ethnic minority groups, including Tibetans and Uighurs.
Given the rhetoric surrounding Arizona’s immigration law, you’d be forgiven for thinking the harsh and immoral immigration
policies described above are a preview of what illegal immigrants in the Grand Canyon State could have expected had SB1070 gone into effect.
President Obama called it a “misguided” law that “undermine basic notions of fairness that we cherish as Americans.” Michael Posner, an assistant secretary of State, complained to Chinese officials that the law is “troubling” and discriminatory.
Mexican President Felipe Calderon brought congressional Democrats to their feet in applause by condemning the Arizona law as “a terrible idea” that “opens the door to intolerance, hate and discrimination.” And, perhaps inevitably, strained allusions to apartheid and Nazi Germany were common.
Some of the world’s worst despots piled on. A spokesman for Venezuelan autocrat Hugo Chavez demanded that the law be “repealed” and that America move away from its “old habits of racism.” The Cuban parliament denounced it as “racist and xenophobic” and a “brutal violation of human rights.”
But the Arizona legislation was essentially a state-level version of federal immigration law. It would have required police to check the immigration status of a person who is already under investigation for a legitimate reason and if the police suspect that he or she might be in the U.S. illegally.
Perhaps the harshest part of America’s immigration law is called “expedited removal,” in which immigrants caught crossing the border are simply returned to the other side. It is used when fraud or misrepresentation has taken place, or when the illegal immigrant does not have a visa, passport or border-crossing card.
Federal immigration law requires that illegal immigrants who wish to apply for asylum, or who fear persecution or torture if returned home, be interviewed by an asylum officer and, if found to have a “credible fear,” are referred to an immigration judge. Those who claim lawful permanent resident, refugee, or asylum status or U.S. citizenship also may have their claims reviewed by an immigration judge.
In contrast to China, which built a 4,000-mile wall to keep outsiders away, America was founded as a nation of immigrants. But it was also founded as a nation of laws codified in our Constitution and other founding documents.
The next time you hear a foreign government or UN bureaucrat berating America for our “harsh” immigration laws, just remember that this country has nothing to apologize for.