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The problem with legal and illegal immigrations

The profusion of glass in the building, from the cupola down to the central Bundestag chamber, has been read as a sign of transparency, or honesty, in the workings of the German government. Yet in a capital where frenetic new construction is the rule rather than the exception, many marvel at the cost of such initiatives without considering that it is often illegal workers whose labor has allowed the Reichstag, along with so much of Berlin, to rise again.

The Nature of the Problem The gap between rhetoric and reality is wider on the issue of illegal immigration than it is on almost any other in Germany today. Through policies passed into law in this same Reichstag, the country has taken an official zero-tolerance policy toward illegal immigration, emphasizing the need to deport current illegal residents and illegal workers as well as criminalizing aid to such illegal persons, estimated unofficially at upwards of one million.

Aside from claims that illegality cannot be tolerated, the presence of illegal persons, either as workers or residents, is barely acknowledged.

In the end, it is the illegal persons themselves who are caught in this perilous gap.

Illegal Migrants: Characteristics and Motivations

Many employers can still easily defy the law by relying heavily, if not exclusively, on illegal workers, thereby keeping the demand for this type of labor high. Nevertheless, the constant risk of being detected—however small—means that illegal workers and residents, in practice, have no access to the legal protections guaranteed them under either German law or the European Charter of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms: For a person who crosses the border into Germany from, say, the Czech Republic, as a temporary illegal worker, the possibility of returning home may not make this scenario a troubling one, but for an immigrant from Lebanon or Ecuador, it is a very different matter indeed.

To consider these factors while seeking to strike a balance between the goals of incorporation and enforcement would be a step in the right direction. Characteristics and Motivations In Germany, the problem with legal and illegal immigrations in most countries with substantial immigration, illegal immigrants fall into four general categories: So why do immigrants come?

It has become clearer that family, friends, or community ties, as well as cultural affinity and languages spoken, can be just as important as prospects for finding work or anticipated access to public services. Nevertheless, Anderson points out that among those who are now illegal in Germany, few have come with the intention of having, or keeping, this status: They want out, not because they are seeking after social benefits, usually, but because they are ambitious and pioneering.

They want to contribute. At some point, reality compels us to examine the situation in terms of its practical consequences — for the migrants themselves, for the citizens of the destination country, and for the state apparatus ostensibly charged with upholding the rule of law. Legal regulations and restrictions exist for a variety of objectives, and pragmatism - as has already been suggested - is often given more weight than moral considerations. Cheap Labor or Exploited Labor?

Breaking the Silence: An Honest Discussion About Illegal Immigration to Germany

The debate over the use of illegal migrant labor is organized around several assumptions, the first being that undocumented migrants will agree to work for wages below the standard market rate. One can imagine why this would be true: The second assumption is that the employer will benefit from the use of illegal labor, leaving aside for the moment his disinclination to break the law.

Obviously, he will save money on production if wages are lower, and in some cases he will be able to expand his workforce and increase his overall production.

Additionally, he will not have to pay social security for his employees, which in Germany can amount to as much as half of total wages. On the down side, employers who do not use illegal labor may find themselves at a competitive disadvantage, the ironic downside of respecting the rule of law.

Some argue that the use of undocumented labor is a form of exploitation. In theory, any worker has the right to complain about working conditions or sue for lost wages. But practically speaking, to do so in Germany would mean almost sure detection and subsequent deportation, as courts routinely check on the immigration status of the plaintiff. Some employers take advantage of this situation by either not paying the agreed wage or withholding wages altogether. However, this claim fails to take into account the complexity of the unemployment problem in Germany, one that exists in the context of a very inflexible labor market and a generous social welfare program that can act as a substitute for workforce participation.

The the problem with legal and illegal immigrations to which undocumented workers cause unemployment is linked to their effect on the equilibrium wage — by increasing the labor supply, they provoke a downward shift in the market wage, leading to an increase in official unemployment, even though total employment — legal and illegal — increases in absolute terms.

The impact of this phenomenon, however, is limited to the unskilled, low-wage sector of the economy, which is very small in Germany as in most advanced industrialized economies.

Moreover, German nationals employed in this sector are already facing competition from abroad as labor-intensive production is being shifted to developing countries. Studies conducted in the United States indicate that illegal migrants, even more so than their legal counterparts, actually fulfill endogenous labor shortages in certain sectors.

The Nature of the Problem

The doubtful relationship between illegal immigration and unemployment is also described by Thomas Strobl, Christian Democratic Union member of the Bundestag: Therefore, the correlation between illegal immigration and high unemployment in Germany does not have to be exaggerated. Living conditions are often deplorable, with as many as ten immigrants crammed into a two-bedroom apartment.

Undocumented migrants live under constant threat of being discovered and deported. This fear opens them up to all kinds of abuse — financial, physical, and even sexual — without any possibility of legal recourse.

Neither are these people well informed about the difficulty of the situation they will be confronting in the country of destination, nor can they possibly anticipate the challenges they might face along the way. Current Policy Initiatives Pre-entry Measures Short of dissolving national borders completely, the question will remain: Making a general distinction between pre- the problem with legal and illegal immigrations post-entry measures, it appears that strengthening the needle sifter is more efficient than later hunting down a needle in the haystack.

The effectiveness of this policy is obviously limited. It is difficult to identify potential illegal migrants without unfairly discriminating against individuals with the legitimate intention of visiting or studying in Europe, especially since countries that are popular destinations for undocumented migrants also tend to be popular destinations for tourists and students.

That is not to say that visa restrictions are not an important tool in combating illegal immigration; it continues to be the case that nationals of countries who, due to bilateral arrangements, are not required to hold visas upon entry especially Poland constitute a large percentage of the undocumented seasonal labor force in Germany. Tightening the borders Of course, withholding a visa does not mean that potential immigrants will cease efforts to get into the desired receiving country.

Rather, they embark upon the much more uncertain strategy of illegal border crossing. Over the 1990s, the German Border Patrol increased personnel at Eastern borders more than threefold, militarizing the borders to Poland and the Czech Republic.

  1. That is not to say that visa restrictions are not an important tool in combating illegal immigration; it continues to be the case that nationals of countries who, due to bilateral arrangements, are not required to hold visas upon entry especially Poland constitute a large percentage of the undocumented seasonal labor force in Germany. Through policies passed into law in this same Reichstag, the country has taken an official zero-tolerance policy toward illegal immigration, emphasizing the need to deport current illegal residents and illegal workers as well as criminalizing aid to such illegal persons, estimated unofficially at upwards of one million.
  2. In practice, the only beneficiaries of such a policy are migrants already contemplating voluntary return.
  3. Rather, they would have to demonstrate that a job offer is already available in order to qualify for this status.

Coordination of border control efforts, moreover, is increasingly taking place at the European level, given that there is more or less unrestricted movement once within the territory of the EU. But the importance of border control is also in its deterrent effect: Combating human trafficking Despite the different political backgrounds and the conflicting interests at stake, there is a general consensus about the need to combat organized crime. Already, a multibillion-dollar industry has developed around clandestine travel agencies.

Moreover, there is evidence that there is a fair amount of corruption among border patrols and that immigration officers can be bought. Much like the drug industry and in fact human traffickers and smugglers of other valuable goods are already collaborating worldwide criminal networks can only be effectively eliminated with international cooperation.

Individual countries will have to share intelligence, information, judicial tasks, and financial responsibilities.

  • This does not seem to be as much of a problem in Germany where the labor market is so carefully regulated;
  • This is in addition to the numerous other legal obstacles to deportation, such as the threat of torture or the unlikelihood of receiving a fair trial in the home country;
  • Nevertheless, Anderson points out that among those who are now illegal in Germany, few have come with the intention of having, or keeping, this status;
  • As demand for illegal labor decreases, so do job availability and wages in the informal sector, two of the largest pull factors for potential migrants;
  • Importantly, such a strategy would not constitute the radical and ultimately unsustainable move of granting asylum on grounds of economic hardship, because persons applying for this legal status would not immediately receive state benefits without contributing anything in return.

However, they have yet to prove their efficacy. While this policy has proven to be very effective with civil war refugees returning home following an armistice, it is unlikely to be attractive to illegals who have come to Germany to escape economic hardship in their home countries.

In practice, the only beneficiaries of such a policy are migrants already contemplating voluntary return. It does little to reduce the number of illegal immigrants already in the country, while potentially inviting abuse. It is obvious that permanent illegal residence or work in a country undermines both national and European immigration and asylum policy and challenges the rule of law.

Regarding detection, arbitrary identity checks by the German border patrol have proven to be extremely inefficient.

Out of 80,000 checks conducted in Germany between August and December 1998, only 500 led to immigration-related apprehensions. Detection is not the only problem; enforcing deportation orders has also proven to be particularly challenging. Many illegal residents have destroyed their passports and ID cards, and even if their identity can be established, their countries of origin are not always willing to allow their readmission or repatriation. This is in addition to the numerous other legal obstacles to deportation, such as the threat of torture or the unlikelihood of receiving a fair trial in the home country.

Nevertheless, if in the end the only thing illegal immigrants have to fear is being sent back to where they came from, the increased probability of deportation is not going to serve as a significant deterrent during the initial decision-making process.

As important as the rule of law is, restrictive measures are only reasonable insofar as they can have an effect.

  • Regarding detection, arbitrary identity checks by the German border patrol have proven to be extremely inefficient;
  • Additionally, however, Germany must back up its rhetorical commitment to the rule of law by acting more consistently on 3D enforcement;
  • Although regularization does not appear to have an impact on future illegal migration, it does solve the immediate problem of their illegal status;
  • Some argue that the use of undocumented labor is a form of exploitation;
  • Some employers take advantage of this situation by either not paying the agreed wage or withholding wages altogether;
  • Obviously, he will save money on production if wages are lower, and in some cases he will be able to expand his workforce and increase his overall production.

And the effectiveness of the 3Ds in Germany is, relative to the resources currently expended in this direction, not very great.

Numerous European countries have introduced regularization programs since the 1980s, including France, Belgium, Italy and Spain. Usually the migrant must meet certain criteria in order to be eligible, such as entry before a certain date and proof of self-sufficiency or an offer of employment.

The host country will then grant authorization, either on a temporary or permanent basis. Although the argument is often made that regularization programs encourage future illegal immigration, there is little evidence to support this claim: If potential migrants chose their destination country based on the likelihood of a future amnesty, there would be far fewer illegal residents in Germany! Although regularization does not appear to have an impact on future illegal migration, it does solve the immediate problem of their illegal status.

Most workers will choose to participate in regularization programs, given that wages generally rise and social benefits may become available. But it is important to recognize that some of the economic advantages offered by undocumented migrant workers will be lost once they have achieved legal status.

Also, they will cease to provide a source of cheap labor as a significant portion of their wages will be deducted in the form of taxes and social security benefits. In the case that certain EU countries with economies structured differently than that of Germany should want to absorb these workers into the formal sector, it is unlikely that this will be tolerated in the future by other member states. Targeting Labor Market Demand While many aspects of illegal immigration policy target the supply of undocumented migrant labor, it is also possible to target the demand.

As demand for illegal labor decreases, so do job availability and wages in the informal sector, two of the largest pull factors for potential migrants. Where these sanctions have been implemented in Europe and the United States, though, they have proved to be of limited effectiveness. From an economic perspective, it is clear that sanctions can only work if the risk premium associated with hiring unauthorized workers exceeds the amount saved by employing them rather than legal workers.

Fines that amount to little more than a slap on the wrist, as in the current case, cannot hope to act as a deterrent. A the problem with legal and illegal immigrations obstacle to the effective implementation of employer sanctions has to do with the technical and legal difficulties of compelling employers to check up on the work authorization of their employees, given the numerous forms of identification that can be used.

This does not seem to be as much of a problem in Germany where the labor market is so carefully regulated. However, one runs the risk that employers will discriminate against authorized foreign workers to avoid bureaucratic hassle. From Analysis to Policy Making: In considering the enforcement measures that are taken against illegal immigration, it has become clear that the borders and the 3D policies of destination countries, such as Germany, can barely act as more than a semi-permeable membrane for global migration flows.

They are simply not strong enough to resist the diffusion of desperate persons whose desire to migrate is often caused by enormous disparities in economic conditions, political stability, and environmental catastrophe.

Any realistic policy of prevention will have to take that into account. First, it is beneficial to offer the possibility of legal status to low-skilled immigrants whose goal is to reside and work in Germany but who do not necessarily meet the requirements laid out in the new immigration law still awaiting ratification. The most feasible way of doing this is to offer low-skilled immigrants a form of renewable temporary residence and work permit rather than permanent residence.

We just liberalized access for highly qualified personnel, for entrepreneurs, and for students who want to work in Germany after they have taken their final exams. Usually, labor migrants will get temporary work permits. This can be changed into a permanent status after the migrant has worked here for five years — and when she or he has attended one of the new integration courses successfully. Yet he acknowledges that the Commission does not see itself issuing an EU-wide directive specifying what legal channels should be created: The Commission only asks that states have clear procedures and transparency in the process of applying for legal status.

Importantly, such a strategy would not constitute the radical and ultimately unsustainable move of granting asylum on grounds of economic hardship, because persons applying for this legal status would not immediately receive state benefits without contributing anything in return. Rather, they would have to demonstrate that a job offer is already available in order to qualify for this status.