Britain's plans for immigration crackdown prompts backlash

Britain's new government is planning on instituting a series of new measures aimed at immigrants in the country illegally, as well as businesses who hire foreign-born workers.

Toby Melville/Reuters
British Home Secretary Amber Rudd delivers her keynote address at the annual Conservative Party Conference in Birmingham, Britain, Oct. 4, 2016.

British home secretary Amber Rudd announced on Tuesday a series of harsh new measures aimed at restricting undocumented immigrants’ participation in the economy, while promising to review other proposals to reduce immigration over the long term.

The moves come in response to the upheaval of anti-immigration sentiment incarnated by the vote to leave the European Union, as the United Kingdom's political parties struggle to find their course in a new post-EU Britain.

"The difference between those arriving and those leaving is still too substantial," Ms. Rudd said in a speech at a Conservative Party conference, according to transcripts.

“[I]t’s only by reducing the numbers back down to sustainable levels that we can change the tide of public opinion … so once again immigration is something we can all welcome.”

Measures to go into effect in December, said Ms. Rudd, would restrict undocumented immigrants’ access to banks, employment, and housing. Upcoming legislation could make it easier to deport noncitizens even for minor crimes. And over the mid term, standards for companies recruiting abroad – which require firms to advertise locally for 28 days first – could also be tightened.

That test, she said, had become little more than a "tick box exercise." And in comments to reporters after the speech, Ms. Rudd also suggested that the government could force businesses to report the percentage of foreign-born staff on their payrolls to "flush out" employers who abuse existing rules and "nudge them into better behavior," according to the BBC. The home secretary added that making the list public was "not something we are definitely going to do," but refused to rule it out, calling it "one of the tools" under review.

Business leaders and the political opposition have criticized the plans.

"I think a lot of businesses would be saddened if they felt that having a global workforce was somehow seen as a badge of shame," said Adam Marshall, head of the British Chambers of Commerce, according to Reuters.

In her speech on Tuesday, the home secretary also signaled that the government could restrict job prospects for students who attend British universities and seek work in the country afterward, saying it would review whether the current schema was "really adding value to our economy."

The new measures certain to go into effect in coming months would criminalize housing rentals to undocumented immigrants, institute mandatory immigration checks for those seeking a license to drive a taxi, and requiring banks to perform checks to ensure that they are not providing regular services to those in the country illegally. 

"Conservative party leaders have sunk to a new low this week as they fan the flames of xenophobia and hatred in our communities and try to blame foreigners for their own failures," said Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, according to the Guardian.

"Drawing up lists of foreign workers won’t stop unscrupulous employers undercutting wages in Britain. Shutting the door to international students won't pay young people’s tuition fee debts, and ditching doctors from abroad won't cut [National Health Service] waiting lists," he said.

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