France is deporting “illegal immigrants” – they are citizens of the European Union, but not citizens of France. To those being deported, that’s like saying citizens of Texas aren’t really citizens of the United States. So, if Texans were to move to Louisiana, they could, under the European Union’s definition of “Union,” be deported back to Texas if they don’t meet certain qualifications.
Those being deported from France, an EU member state, are some of the same ones “deported” during World War II. Gypsies are being sent back to Romania, also an EU member state. You may have heard these deportees called “Roma,” but they are the same Gypsies expelled from many European countries during the reign of Adolph Hitler and his vile henchmen. Expulsion then was, of course, much worse and often meant death. So, it’s not so bad this time. Right?
The issue for the EU is that this looks like discrimination against Europe’s most poverty-stricken member state. Romania has the lowest standard of living and the poorest people in all of Europe. Fully twenty-five percent of Romanians live under the poverty level – and they are not allowed to spend more than three months looking for work in any other member state. The Roma (Gypsies) make up only 2.5 percent of the population of Romania – protection for them, a voice for them, is hard to find. Corruption, red tape, ethnic discrimination and a downturn in the world economy have added misery to this poorest of European countries. So, the Roma leave – just as many Americans of all races and ethnicities left the American South for the industrial North in the1940s and 1950s – they leave to find a better life only to find themselves being deported.
Caught up in an election year debate, an attempt on the part of French conservatives to show their hard line on these “illegals,” they are, with great flourish, given pocket money and flown back to Romania – hundreds of them by the end of August 2010. However, they will try again; they will head back to France in just a week or two.
So, what, in the European Union, is an “illegal immigrant”? The French politicians would have you believe it’s complicated. Perhaps deliberately so. Yes, you can “move freely among the member states of the European Union” – within reason, of course. It seems that the signatories to the EU Agreement wanted to make sure that the have-nots from one member state don’t flood another member state where jobs are more plentiful and the standard of living is better. They certainly don’t need that burden, especially in a political year.
So then, what is meaning of “legal” immigration/emigration in Europe. Well, you can go anywhere you want to go in the EU, if you are a citizen of one of the European Union member states and you have a valid passport or identity card – but only for 3 months. Aren’t you glad that you don’t need an identity card to go on spring break or vacation or just a crazy road trip here in the United States – or do you? Isn’t it required in most states that you have some kind of identification with you if you want to board a plane, train, cash a check, drive a car, or if you get stopped by any policeman in the country for any infraction, no matter how minor – including jaywalking? Just sayin’.
Okay, back to Europe. Just like the USA, the EU requires people to be identifiable most of the time – especially if they are not in their “home state.” Unlike the USA, the EU can, under certain circumstances, expel citizens of one state to their home state. In the US, movement between and among the states is much less restrictive. We can go from one state to another whether or not we have a job, a passport, visible means of support, a car or any of the other trappings of what is normally thought of as a “productive member of society.” Not so in the EU. To travel to another member state for longer than three months, one must have a means of support and sufficient health insurance so as “not to become a burden” on the host state.
Are these impoverished citizens, the Roma – the Gypsies – such a great burden? Or, are they a political diversion from France’s real political issues – particularly issues of corruption. Allegations of corruption have plagued the French government since the election of President Nicholas Sarkozy. France’s labor minister, Eric Woerth, and President Sarkozy’s wife have been caught up in the financial corruption scandal. They have not been in the news quite so much recently as the more troublesome immigration questions regarding these Gypsy usurpers of the good life have been thrust into the political spotlight.
The European Union was supposed to lead to a better life for all Europeans, and, some say it has. But some, like the Roma, have been left behind and are still, today, used as political pawns when the powers that be need a way to divert the public’s attention away from the real political and economic issues. Blaming those least able to defend themselves appears to be a worldwide epidemic. Again.
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