Immigrants React to Government Action in EU and U.S.

Hannah Matangos

Hannah Matangos was a research intern at AICGS for the spring semester of 2016.

German chancellor Angela Merkel and last week’s European Union summit are focused on keeping the 3 million Syrian refugees who came to Turkey inside Turkey and are enacting measures to dissuade refugees from taking the sea route to Greece and thereby seeking asylum in Western Europe.

However, these initiatives, such as the €3 billion EU-Turkey deal that includes provisions such as work permits for Syrians in Turkey, are viewed by many Syrians as not enough to build a sustainable future.

Many Syrian refugees are highly educated and possess language skills, and thus seek to capitalize on their skills by travelling to EU states and finding decent work.  Most of the jobs refugees already hold in Turkey do not qualify them for work permits, which less than 4,000 of approximately 3 million Syrians have been able to receive.

The Turkish government has also placed restrictions on Syrians living in Turkey, including requiring travel permits for domestic travel for Syrians who do not yet have a Turkish residency card.  These cards are difficult to maintain for immigrants who arrive illegally, which is the case for many after the Turkish border closures last November.  Unable to acquire proper documentation, many Syrians feel like “herded cattle” and want to leave Turkey, whether to travel to Western Europe or back to Syria as soon as possible.

The frustration of EU officials increased this week as Austria insisted on capping its number of migrants and announced that it will re-impose its southern borders.  Austria’s sentiments have consequently undermined Germany’s push to seek a joint EU solution to the refugee crisis while working with Turkey.

EU leaders agreed that there was no alternative to a common approach to the migration wave, and that there would be a special summit with Turkey in March in order to form a joint plan.  However, officials remain skeptical that the EU-Turkey plan will work and are pushing for border controls along the migration route, which would mean thousands of people will be stuck in Greece, a country still struggling with its own financial crisis and now facing humanitarian problems caused by migrant influx.

The U.S. is confronted with internal turmoil regarding immigration, which revealed itself on Thursday when approximately 14,000 Latinos and their allies rallied at the state capitol in Madison, Wisconsin for a “Day without Latinos and Immigrants” protest.  The impressive gathering sought to showcase their unity and opposition to two recent anti-immigrant bills passed by the state legislature.  They also sought to convey the economic power of the Latino community by demonstrating what would happen if thousands of Latino employees and business owners were suddenly absent from work, and many Latino business owners closed for the day.

One bill, SB 533, would restrict local governments from issuing ID cards to immigrants who are in the country illegally.  This bill has been passed by the State Assembly and Senate and is waiting for action by Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI).

The other bill, AB 450, would withhold state funding from “sanctuary cities,” where public employees are prohibited from asking about someone’s citizenship status.  This bill is waiting for action in the Senate.  Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) stated that AB 450 was meant to punish those who commit crimes and was not meant to instill fear, which was coming from the activists and their agenda.

The views expressed are those of the author(s) alone. They do not necessarily reflect the views of the American-German Institute.