Europe sees the light on border security: What we can learn from it
Updated: Feb 25
During the Sturm and Drang over immigration policy in the U.S., advocates of an America First strategy have pointed across the Atlantic as a cautionary tale. Europe, the story goes, has been dangerously naïve in its immigration policies and is now paying the price. Their left-leaning globalist views and reluctance to enforce borders continue to cripple the continent. In short, it’s not where we want to be.
Now comes some surprising news from across the pond. Some European governments are implementing migration policies that would make even the most pro-enforcement advocates in America jealous. Even more unlikely is that the push for a harder line is coming from some of the same center-left governments that traditionally advocate for more lax policies. What’s not surprising is that the change is resulting in more secure borders and greater economic prosperity.
Thanks to its tough, new border-enforcement measures, the Spanish government recently announced it has managed to cut by 60 percent the number of illegal migrants coming across the Mediterranean from Morocco, Algeria, and sub-Saharan Africa. The latest data from the country’s immigration authorities show only 24,159 illegal entries being made this fiscal year; a level unseen for over a decade. According to media reports, an internal European Commission report points to efforts such as immediate deportations, toughened asylum standards, the turning away of NGO-led migrant ships and pressure put on migrant-source countries to prevent departures as an explanation for the achievement.
Spain’s success comes at a time when America continues its struggle on the border; in part due to opposition to legislative reforms and anti-borders groups successfully fighting President Trump’s immigration policies in the courts.
From an American perspective, what might be most interesting about Spain’s success is that the governing party behind the tough new measures — the Spanish Socialist Worker’s Party — is far from right-wing populist. In fact, a crop of socialist governments in Europe and elsewhere have recently increased enforcement measures on their borders, measures which would run contrary to the policy platform of America’s leftists.
Last year, when Spain’s Socialists took power after a seven-year hiatus, the country experienced a record for illegal immigration, with figures topping 64,000 or over double what they were in 2017. Originally emphasizing accommodation over enforcement, the Socialists had initially welcomed migrant ships and sought to provide illegal aliens with full access to its healthcare system, measures which the conservative opposition, the Peoples’ Party, ridiculed as having led to 2018’s dramatic jump in numbers.
Also after the Socialists took power, the country was rocked by a mini-invasion of more than 700 sub-Saharan migrants into Ceuta, a Spanish town bordering Morocco on the African continent. The invaders brazenly used blow torches to cut through Spain’s border fence before storming the town and reportedly attacking Spanish police with electric saws and bottles filled with excrement and burning quicklime. Dozens of police were injured while hundreds of the invading migrants made it across into Spanish territory where they claimed asylum status.
Mass unlawful migration from the sub-Saharan has been a “shock” in parts of Europe in part due to a prolonged fertility decline in the region. French President Emmanuel Macron has made public warnings about the issue and, after asylum applications jumped over 20 percent last year, his left-wing government has announced a slew of new enforcement efforts in response.
The governing Labour Party in Malta has also taken a firmer stance on migrants, particularly against NGO-led migrant ships attempting to dock at its borders. Elsewhere, Denmark’s newly-elected Social Democrats have also promised new get-tough measures, including putting a cap on non-western immigrants to ensure better integration and making repatriation, as opposed to permanent residence, the central goal of asylum policy.
It shouldn’t be a left or right issue to ensure immigration policy serves the national interest or that the integrity of a nation’s immigration system stays protected. Indeed, Spain’s latest enforcement efforts have reportedly reduced the number of those killed attempting to cross the Mediterranean by over 40 percent, which amounts to several hundred people; something that certainly cuts across political ideologies.
Restricting immigration in the U.S. has traditionally been a central concern of the left, chiefly due to the pressure put on vulnerable citizen-workers (in terms of wages, unionization rates, etc.) by the importation of foreign labor. It’s likely for this reason that America’s relatively blue-collar Hispanic and black workers are far less enthusiastic for open-borders than left-leaning, progressive whites. For this reason, Denmark’s new left-wing Prime Minister, Mette Frederiksen, once stated that “mass immigration and the free movement of labour is paid for by the lower classes.”
French President Macron has voiced similar sentiments. In a recent address to fellow elected party members, he said: “The middle class doesn’t have a problem with [immigration]: They don’t run into it.” By contrast, he said, “the working class lives with it.” Further, he stated, “The left hasn’t wanted to look at this problem for decades, so working-class people have moved to the extreme right.”
It’s true that Europe has dug the hole they are now in with immigration, and we would be wise to avoid those mistakes. We should also see their recent about-face as vindication that our current path of safeguarding American interests through an enforcement-focused approach is the right one.
Dale Wilcox is executive director and general counsel at the Immigration Reform Law Institute, a public interest law firm working to defend the rights and interests of the American people from the negative effects of illegal migration.
Also published at: Dale L. Wilcox, Europe sees the light on border security: What we can learn from it, The Hill, November 23, 2019.