Angelo #Panebianco: The Hypocrisy on Immigration Policies

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Matteo Renzi, the newly-elected secretary of the Democratic Party of Italy, included a discussion about the Bossi-Fini law into his electoral program. Going beyond his reasons, this is a great opportunity to define more rational immigration policies for our country. Do we have to limit ourselves to the mere control of immigration or do we need more active interventions, furthermore to become more selective?

It is a question that becomes possible if we leave behind the ambiguities and hypocrisies that have so far dominated the field. It seems that we are unable, because of certain ideological superstructures, to decide once  and for all on what we want to base our immigration policy: either on “convenience” or on “welcoming” (as in the the duty we have to accommodate those less fortunate than us). Too often the two criteria are mixed and immigration is justified in the light of both aspects. However, these two parameters contradict each other and the result is the inability to formulate coherent proposals.The justification of “convenience” is well known: we need to counteract with the aging of the population, we need – at least if the economy recovers soon rather than later – for additional manpower and new consumers.
But these reasons, inspired by our interest, are often added on top of others of a different nature, humanitarian reasons (the reasons of acceptance). These two levels of discourse are mixed, making it impossible to make rational decisions.
The “welcoming” has a clear ideological origin, it stems from the confusion of some Catholic people (but not all), and also of some non religious ones, about the Church mission and the duties of the State.
It is there where we get the confusion, the Gospel message (the universalism of the Church, which speaks to all men) and politics (the inevitable particularism of the State that meets the needs of a defined set of taxpayers).

“Welcoming” can’t be what defines the policies of a State. This collides in fact with the unavoidable problem of the “scarcity”: how many immigrants can we accept? How much can we deploy for them? Where will we find these resources?
Even if this would look “petty” to those who don’t appreciate the “politics of responsibility”, the only parameter to define rational immigration policies is the “convenience” that we can make out of it.
Once we make this choice we face the next problem – a phase that many countries already reached -: how do we select the immigrants? It is obvious that if we opt for the “welcoming” choice we can’t do a selection. Instead we can, and we need, to choose – for the sake of our interest. What kind of immigrants do we need?
What characteristics and skills must they have? Maybe this is not a today-issue, considering how many Italian qualified unemployed people we have (which is still a terrible problem, even taking into account that official statistics illicitly count the students as unemployed).Yet tomorrow we may need to import skilled workers, to be allocated in those technical sectors that our young generation is leaving uncovered. In that case, some serious immigration policies would try to appeal to a specific kind of workers instead of others. Always taking into account that an advanced capitalist country cannot afford to import many unskilled workers. This country can’t direct more than a certain amount of them into the legal labor market: as a consequence this surplus would end up into the illegal market, which is controlled by crime. A collateral effect of choosing by “convenience” is that we will improve the quality of life of the immigrants.
Moreover, to define these policies, we should evaluate other aspects. For example people coming from certain countries should be privileged instead of others, if the former ones are easier to integrate than the latter ones.
It is realistic to imagine a scenario in which we encourage immigration from Christian-Orthodox countries instead of Muslim ones.
At least this is a legitimate topic for discussion.

Realistic policies based on “convenience”, should then discuss how to choose the immigrants (choices to be reassessed through time on the base of the experience). There is nothing to be invented. Other countries already set a pattern.

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Angelo Panebianco is an Italian political analyst and author. He is one of the main opinionists for the conservative newspaper “Corriere della Sera” and also professor (and pundit) in the University “Alma Mater Studiorum” of Bologna, where he teaches Political Science.
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Hobo is gonna pay him a visit today at 12. Facebook event here.
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