Immigration Law Charts Chilling Course
After much political wrangling, Germany’s first immigration law came into effect January 1. The new policy is not necessarily anti-immigration—after all, Germany’s population is growing old, and the birth rate is dropping; completely halting immigration would be demographic suicide.
At the same time, Berlin considered that immigrants shouldn’t be allowed simply to take jobs when over 5 million Germans are now out of work. Thus came a policy, according to Germany’s Deutsche Welle, where non-EU immigrants will be “denied access to simple jobs” and only be allowed to work on a contractual basis—in temporary or seasonal jobs.
The concern about immigrants is not just limited to employment issues, but also how the immigrants fit in to German society. “Drawing lessons from the past, lawmakers also instilled in the regulation measures meant to improve integration in the face of widespread beliefs that a large number of the roughly 7.3 million foreigners living in Germany have not adjusted socially to their adopted country.
“Starting next year, new immigrants will have the right to participate in state-funded German language classes and receive an introduction to the country’s justice system, culture and history” (ibid.; emphasis ours throughout). They will “have the right.” Sounds very democratic. But notice: “The authorities may also force foreigners already living in Germany to participate in the courses or forfeit their residence permits or social handouts” (ibid.). The German government will get tough if it has to.
The law, according to dw, is also intended to keep terrorists out of the country. Germany’s intelligence agency will run background checks on each applicant before permanent residency is granted. The law also makes it easier to deport anyone considered to have terrorist connections.
This is all occurring as German nationalism rises. Young people are more often singing along to pop songs that honor the Fatherland. Germans are increasingly sick of hearing reminders about Nazi atrocities. Right-wing extremists are gaining seats in regional parliaments—some of whom recently walked out on a moment of silence for victims of the Jewish Holocaust. And two major far-right-wing parties officially joined forces mid-January to present a unified front at the 2006 general elections.
For a nation to be proud, and to some degree protective, of its culture is only natural. But when Germany heads in this direction, it strikes an ominous, historic cord. It was the pride in the Fatherland, along with distrust and eventual hatred toward foreigners, that brought the Nazis to power in the 1930s.
Back then, it was hatred toward non-Aryans—mainly Jews. Today, Germany’s xenophobic inclinations are surfacing as anti-terrorist sentiment.
But Jews are not off the hook. Part of Germany’s immigration reform is a response to the huge numbers of Eastern European Jews moving to Germany since the fall of the Berlin Wall. In the past three years, more Jews have immigrated to Germany than to Israel. Germany has the third-largest population of Eastern European Jews after Israel and the United States (ibid., January 11). Some German states have already begun drawing up legislation designed to tighten laws on Jews immigrating from the former Soviet Union.
Watch for a dramatic rise in nationalism in Germany, and for increased regulation on immigration and foreigners already living in the country.