Concerns Canada's immigration policy to the United States
Immigration to Canada - a model for Germany? - Summary theses
The question of Canada as a country of immigration - a model for Germany is of course a bit problematic. Because we must certainly not assume that we can easily and completely adopt the Canadian immigration regulations, but also the attitudes that stand behind this legislation and behind the administrative rules and customs for the Federal Republic of Germany. What we should certainly do, however, is to integrate the good things that seem exemplary to us into our own German model and adopt them as essential components of this model. This must be stated first in the introduction.
The second statement, which can be derived from the theses of our speakers, concerns the basic condition of a rational and humanitarian migration policy, namely the definition of what actually constitutes national coexistence. All speakers pointed out that in this respect there are serious differences between the German conception of the national community and the "constitutional patriotic" (Habermas) conception of a legal community that prevails in other western democracies. These can certainly be explained, on the one hand by the different historical identities of the states: Especially in the 19th century, whether you like it or not, Germany played a special role - perhaps in contrast to the French Revolution and the traumatic experiences that the Germans had had to do in this context. But perhaps the German view is also the result of a process of industrialization that has never been understood rationally, as is the fact that Germany has long viewed itself only as a country of emigration. Attitudes that differ from the "Western" way of thinking have emerged here, and it is quite clear that this is why the definition of a migration policy in the German context is much more difficult. Because here one assumes that there is a
uniform society exists, but a divided right. The unified society includes all who profess to be Germans. And if you don't do that, you have (luckily this has now been put into perspective by EC legislation) to accept different, mostly lesser rights, you are always welcome as a guest, as a friend, but you are not part of the legal community of Germans . In contrast, it is a basic requirement of any rational migration policy that the sentence applies "All people who want to live in a certain national territory are members of a single legal community". There may be differences within such a legal community, it is human nature. But all people can invoke the same basic rights and are thus a member of the state nation, as much as they have different languages and customs.
The problem of dual citizenship is also related to this German "special concept". We are currently experiencing how difficult it is to get things moving in Germany, to enable dual citizenship. The problem of the right to vote for foreigners is also related to the German way of thinking and tradition. Here, too, we in Germany have to take the first steps, but I'm afraid it will be very difficult to approximate our status to that of the other Western countries in this respect as well. And since these things are basically anchored even more deeply than the catalog of basic rights in our Basic Law, namely in the emotional self-image of the Germans, the EC merger will probably not be so helpful here either. A process of rethinking is required: the Germans also have to move psychologically into the Western association of states, to which fortunately they already belong physically. That will certainly take a long time - I fear several generations. But what we still have to do today is to make all preparations so that sooner or later - albeit on this fluctuating basis of awareness - rational migration and immigration policy and legislation can come about, which alone will be able to solve the problems at hand .
Thirdly, there is a group of observations with regard to various elements that we put in a very practical way in such a
should take. The first element is - and here we can learn not only from the Canadians, but also from the USA, from Australia, from all the major immigration countries - that Principle of non-discrimination. Neither race nor origin must therefore be sufficient conditions for deciding whether a person is allowed to immigrate or not.
The second element is the fact that we have to assume that there are several categories of people who want to come to our countries, namely the refugees who come out of sheer need without their own will; Then the family members, whom we must surely welcome and take in for humanitarian reasons, and then finally the actual immigrants who want to improve their economic or social situation or who want to change their place of life for any other (e.g. climatic) reason. A rational law, based on the principle of non-discrimination, must take into account the different situations of these three categories of refugees, family members and immigrants, just as it does in the Canadian context. I think Canada is exemplary here among all western host countries.
The question has now been raised, but if we have these groups, how are we supposed to cope with the application of uniform criteria? Here, I think, you have to be very realistic. One must not assume that Canada has found "the philosopher's stone" in the form of the one depicted Points system. Because wherever humanitarian reasons apply - and they must apply in the area of refugees and asylum seekers, for example, they must apply in the area of family reunification - you cannot work with the point system. For the rest, however, even if it is only ten percent, the worst point system is still better than what the Federal Republic is currently practicing. The rule here is: nobody is actually allowed in. But who comes in is decided by chance and the luck of those concerned, and therefore there is potentially a fight of all against all. The worst criterion that potential immigrants can rely on, because it is also used for all immigrants and can be sued in case of doubt, is better than the Federal Republic's refusal to define such criteria.
because "we are not a country of immigration". Such a set of criteria, in line with the Canadian example, is even missing in the otherwise very laudable immigration bill that Alliance 90 / The Greens presented in spring 1992. It would have to be supplemented by criteria according to which approval should then actually be granted.
With regard to the first two groups mentioned - refugees, family members - there must certainly be social criteria that are in the foreground of the regulations here. However, with regard to the other immigrants, who will undoubtedly be there, regardless of their size, there must be rationally understandable, factually formulated criteria. The fact that an economist, for example, would tend to ask about qualifications in a similar way to the Canadian model, and even to ask whether one is bringing money when one has nothing else to bring, is a question of value judgment. Of course, one can also ask the other way round, assuming that our country has enough capital, but not enough clever minds who use this capital correctly, whether the poorest from the Third World should not be preferred, if only a clever mind is brought and used. There are undoubtedly many more criteria, and their acceptance will have to be discussed politically. It is important, however, that the discussion about such catalogs of criteria in this country is opened at all, so that it is clear in advance what one wants or what the population thinks they can endure in this regard.
The next element that we should adopt from Canada is that of Rules for the administration of the immigration process. It is true that all speakers observed with great skepticism that in Canada the theory of these rules is better than the practice of applying them. Because the bodies that, for example, decide on recognition as a refugee are overburdened and not always up to date. And finally, the establishment of the criteria and the quotas of those who are permitted under different immigration categories would result from a poorly clear general dialogue in the parliamentary and pre-parliamentary areas. On the other hand, I have to say again that this - measured against the conditions in Germany - is better than nothing! Because since we like it
assuming that Germany is not a country of immigration, no precautions have been taken (apart from the laborious management of the flow of asylum seekers) to even cope administratively with the migration problem. Perhaps one hopes that one day this would take the EC from us; and there is a lot to be said for it. And yet the following applies: if immigration is to be organized rationally in the interests of the country and the population, then the administration must be able to structure and administer such processes. And the jurisprudence must also be able to carry out the review effectively with regard to the fair granting of immigration permits. Here, too, our courts, especially the administrative courts, are completely overburdened, and this, too, has to do with the fact that one closes one's eyes to the given circumstances and really only allows oneself to be driven from one makeshift to another by the pressure of the circumstances.
Finally - and this cannot be emphasized enough - the legal review is of the utmost importance. This is not only the case because every administration has weaknesses and makes mistakes, be it out of overload, or out of poor information and self-interest; but also because the legislation often argues incorrectly. Because everyone has the right to legal protection, including potential immigrants. Now it is often objected that those affected must first be in the country so that they can defend themselves, so that they can raise objections, e.g. against the unjust distribution of points, against the unjust evaluation of a hearing. It is precisely in this regard that the Canadian practice of legal review, on the one hand, the establishment of immigration criteria and, on the other hand, the application of these criteria, has interesting regulations that can also be of great use in the context of a German immigration law.
Finally, it must be stated that it is certainly essential that goodwill is behind all efforts to introduce German immigration legislation. And here I may come back to the business basis of any rational migration policy. Canada, like
The USA and many other countries also still see themselves as open societies. The reason why Germany always denied this can perhaps be explained historically. Corresponding controversies, however, must not shape contemporary politics.
The Canadian example is again essential in this respect. This shows how good it is to keep all migration policy considerations out of current election campaigns and day-to-day politics. As soon as these become an instrument of day-to-day politics, the result is necessarily determined by opportunity aspects. From a humanitarian point of view, in particular, one must be careful not to make the fate of individual or entire groups of poor and threatened people an object of domestic policy. I think that's just immoral and that's why I think we should also take this example from Canada into our discussion today about an immigration law.
© Friedrich Ebert Foundation | technical support | net edition fes-library | June 2003
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