Immigration Backlash

HOW much is enough?

The Chinese who recently drowned off the coast of New York and the current repatriation of Haitians are two examples: Relentless population growth, poverty, and repression are driving people worldwide to seek a better and safer life. But how many immigrants can nations accept?

European-derived states are answering that question by closing borders and tightening immigration laws. On June 24, France voted to no longer automatically give French citizenship to children of foreigners. The bill is one of three the new conservative government will try to pass in order to stem a tide of illegal immigrants.

Germany has cut back its admittedly too-open immigration policy. But the hate and violence that helped bring about new German policies and the relative silence from German leaders about anti-foreigner sentiment are disturbing. Germany is in the middle of talks with the Czech and Slovak states to create repatriation laws to stop the flow of foreigners before they get to Germany. Germany detained some 18,000 illegals on the Czech and Slovak borders between January and April; in 1991 the figure for the year

was 20,000. Some 80,000 ethnic Albanians have left Kosovo in Serbia, anticipating another Bosnia there; most head for the Czech border.

After a decade of historic increases of immigrants coming to America - 8.9 million legally, 3 million illegally - polls show declining tolerance for them. Some 61 percent of Americans said in a new Times/CBS poll they prefer a decrease in immigration.

In Canada, one of the first acts of new Prime Minister Kim Campbell has been to create a special public-security ministry to clamp down on illegal immigrants.

Even Australia is in the middle of a crackdown - mainly on Asian populations. Authorities are checking visas and citizenship papers.

This is a "new world order" problem that will not go away any time soon. The perceived cost of taking care of new peoples creates strains that cause an often hateful backlash - even when unwarranted. Will political leaders in the West quell these fires - or stoke them?

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