Dutch and American politics have simultaneously sunk to the same low. Both have side-lined their child refugee amnesties and are putting up walls to stop immigration, writes historian James Kennedy
It is proof that the tone and policies of the new cabinet’s government agreement are as narrow-minded as the attitude of the most bull-headed of American Republicans.
The bone of contention in the US is an old law passed by the Obama administration called the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (Daca) which prevented around 800,000 ‘illegal’ children from being deported. These children, who entered the country with their parents, were entitled to a temporary residency permit and, provided they did not commit any criminal acts, a work permit as well.
Research has shown that Daca has had a beneficial effect on the financial situation and the well-being of the children and their families without prejudicing Americans in any way. The policy was thwarted from the start by the Republican Congress and a number of states which did not want a ‘child amnesty’ because migrants would ‘steal’ jobs and feared the number of under-age fortune seekers from Central America would grow.
That is why the White House decided to abolish Daca from January 2018 and leave any new measures up to Congress.
Last week the American government produced a last-ditch proposal to help Daca children but it came with a hefty price tag.
Not only would child refugees have no prospect of an American passport, the asylum procedure itself was amended in 70 places to include more border control, a ban on cities protecting illegal aliens from prosecution, the exclusion of young asylum seekers from ‘murderous’ countries in Central America and greater hurdles for immigrants to obtain a green card. American companies will also be checked more thoroughly for illegal workers.
The Dutch government is not focused primarily on jobs. It is concerned about ‘mutual trust and social cohesion’. It wants to keep asylum seekers from its door by advocating regional solutions so they can then be accommodated outside of Europe which means they will lose the right ‘in principle’ to a residency permit: ‘After a short period the asylum seeker can be returned to accommodation in the region’. And: ‘if an asylum seeker is stopped at the border he will not be allowed to enter the Netherlands and will be turned over to the Belgian or German authorities.’
That is the type of wall the Netherlands is building. The child refugee amnesty rules will not be relaxed. This means the present situation, in which the majority of applicants are turned down, will continue.
Only a hundred families have benefited from the child refugee amnesty since May 2013. Compared with the United States the numbers are very small but the ‘principle’ is the same. Here, too, local councils can no longer offer refused asylum seekers a bed-bath-bread arrangement. Refugee organisation Vluchtelingen werk didn’t call the new plans ‘punitive’ for nothing.
It’s looking as if countries everywhere are closing their borders. Popular feeling against immigration was a large part of the Brexit vote. And even Angela Merkel will probably have no choice but to put an end to large-scale migration if she is to keep the up and coming AfD happy.
Unregulated migratory movement can destabilise a country and it is important that immigration policy is supported by a large part of society. But the present policy of only allowing 750 refugees a year is taking it to another extreme.
The Netherlands does not want to be hospitable and is not prepared to share its prosperity. It is a policy which invites comparison with the ambitions of the White House where the present incumbent would rather build walls than bridges. It doesn’t bode well for the next four years.
This article appeared earlier in Trouw