Monday, July 25, 2011

Analysis: Norway massacre exposes incendiary immigration issue

It looks like Anders Behring Breivik may have achieved his goal. We see below a recognition that failure to hold full and fair discussions of immigration issues has been a mistake and some view that more openness might have prevented the massacre

For many years, the USA, Australia, Britain and some other countries were perfecly at ease with imigration but when some groups started arriving that caused problems for the existing population, the public rightly expected their governments to do something about it. But governments instead tried to suppress debate about the issues concerned. One result of that policy is Anders Behring Breivik -- and his clear and very loud message that the Leftist elite have got it wrong

Norwegian Anders Behring Breivik said he killed 93 people to spark a "revolution" against the multiculturalism he believed was sapping Europe's heritage, and experts say a frank debate about immigration may be the best way to prevent similar explosions of violence.

In some Nordic countries, and elsewhere in Europe, political parties have fed on rising public concern over immigration as economic conditions worsen and a drip-feed of Islamist attacks stokes fear and suspicion of new arrivals.

But experts argue overly aggressive political rhetoric and scare tactics have inflamed passions rather than address the many complex, underlying problems.

Conflicting messages and political squeamishness in tackling immigration and multiculturalism have frustrated the public and given space for hardline ideologues, they say.

"If the twin attacks in Norway fail to trigger an honest discussion of the issue, exposing often scare-mongering arguments used by the extreme right, this may marginalize the radical groups and worsen the situation, which in turn could bring more similar attacks in the future," said Lilit Gevorgyan, Europe analyst at the IHS Global Insight think-tank.

"This is not just an issue in Norway. Across Scandinavia and also in Western and Eastern Europe, you have a lot of people who are very frustrated by the lack of open debate," she added.

British Prime Minister David Cameron, Germany's Angela Merkel and France's Nicolas Sarkozy have all declared in recent months that multiculturalism has failed, in speeches that were otherwise careful to highlight the contribution of immigrants.

But critics say such statements at best do little to offer solutions to tackle the economic and societal pressures that stem from increasing immigration and globalization, and do even less to harness the benefits of a multi-ethnic society.

At worst, they say such comments risk victimizing often vulnerable immigrant communities and souring race relations.

"What has clearly emerged from recent speeches and ensuing public national debates on multiculturalism is a sense of confusion, malaise and often contradictory messages," said Sara Silvestri, lecturer in religion and international politics at London's City University, in an article dated June 8.

"So we look for easy answers presented as simple choices e.g., moderate vs. radical Islam, multiculturalism vs. assimilation ... Yet such simplistic naming and categorizing further divides people and provokes animosities," she added.


A number of Scandinavian political parties have tackled immigration head on, but the inflammatory tone used by some politicians may have fueled Breivik's anti-immigrant and anti-Islamic hatred.

Many far-right European groups have shifted away from overtly racist rhetoric and have instead focused their argument on stressing what they see as the incompatibility of Islam and European values.

In a 1,500-page violent manifesto published by Breivik, the 32-year-old expressed his admiration for Dutch anti-Islam politician Geert Wilders, and the tome included reported anti-Islamic comments Wilders made to the Dutch parliament. However, Wilders at the weekend denounced Breivik's actions.

Anti-immigrant and anti-Islamic parties have gained traction in Nordic and Scandinavian countries in recent years, tapping public anxiety over the relatively recent phenomenon of mass migration, particularly of Muslims, to their region.

The anti-immigrant Sweden Democrats were last year elected to the Swedish parliament for the first time, despite the party having roots in neo-Nazi movements of the 1980s and 1990s. The party has criticized Muslims and Islam as being un-Swedish.

Swedish anti-fascism magazine Expo, where the late best-selling novelist Steig Larsson was highly active, says while there may be no direct link between violence and comments by politicians, the rhetoric creates a fertile environment for ethnically motivated attacks.

"It is very aggressive ideology that the Swedish Democrats are pushing toward Muslims ... it has become a more and more accepted way to speak about Muslims this way," said Expo reporter Johannes Jakobsson.

"Of course if you are in the Swedish parliament and point fingers at Muslims and say these people are dangerous, of course this is going to influence people to become more hostile toward them," he added.


Harald Stanghelle, political editor of Norway's Aftenposten conservative newspaper, said it was unfair to accuse Norway's anti-immigrant Progress Party of inflaming the passions of individuals such as Breivik, who was once a member.

Stanghelle says Breivik left the party because it did not go far enough in representing his views, highlighting a dilemma for those who say parties that drive away those with fringe views on immigration risk creating militant underground groups.

"It's totally wrong to hold the Progress Party responsible for extremists like this. A few smaller, anti-immigration groups, anti-multicultural groups, have broken from the party because they believe it is too polite, too mainstream," Stanghelle said.

Stanghelle was careful to paint Breivik as a lone extremist with little link to the wider discourse on immigration in Norway. After years on the fringes, Breivik's views are now likely to echo loudest at his first court hearing on Monday.

Breivik has described his bombing of an Oslo government building and his shooting spree at a youth camp run by Norway's Labor Party as "atrocious" but "necessary" in his crusade against liberal immigration policies and the spread of Islam.

"He now wants to meet in court for the first time, and wants an open court meeting, and why? Most criminals fight for a closed court meeting, but he sees himself as a crusader," Stanghelle said.


Parts of Alabama immigration law likely to stand up in court

Federal judges have temporarily blocked most criminal provisions in states that recently passed laws like Alabama's targeting illegal immigrants, but have allowed state regulations on employing undocumented workers, an analysis of the litigation shows.

The coalition of advocacy and legal groups, unions and individuals that filed suit this month against Alabama's comprehensive immigration law will seek a temporary injunction from U.S. District Judge Sharon Blackburn on Aug. 24.

Six states -- Arizona, Utah, Georgia, Indiana, Alabama and South Carolina -- passed or amended laws since 2010 aimed at people in the country illegally. Alabama's law is considered the nation's toughest.

Lawsuits are pending in five of those states. Temporary injunctions have been granted on all or part of the new laws in Arizona, Utah, Indiana and Georgia.

A suit is planned in South Carolina, national advocacy groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union have said.

Federal judges have issued temporary injunctions against laws in Arizona and Utah that -- like Alabama's new statute -- require immigrants to carry registration papers.

Judges also have temporarily blocked laws in Arizona, Utah, Indiana and Georgia that -- like Alabama's -- allow police to detain suspected illegal aliens to check their immigration status.

But the U.S. Supreme Court has upheld a state law similar to Alabama's requiring employers to use the federal E-Verify system to confirm the legal status of new hires or risk losing their business license.

While injunction rulings in other states address some laws similar to Alabama's, several elements of the new Alabama law have not been tested in court, said William G. Ross, a professor at the Cumberland School of Law.

They include:

Requirements that schools check students' and parents' immigration status.

A prohibition on renting to illegal immigrants.

A ban on courts enforcing contracts with known illegal aliens.

Criminal sanctions for people in the country illegally who make any financial transaction with a government, like paying taxes.

Seeking a temporary injunction is one of the first steps in a constitutional challenge to a law.

Plaintiffs must show they are likely to win the case and that harm would result if the law were to go into effect. They also must show a delay would benefit the public and not hurt the litigants.

"That does not mean the law is unconstitutional," Ross said. "It just stops things so there is no irreparable harm to people that could not be remedied."

State vs. fed power

Opponents say the new state laws are preempted by federal authority because the U.S. Constitution gives the federal government broad power to regulate immigration.

When a state law conflicts with a federal law or hinders its enforcement, the federal law prevails, they argue.

But a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling has given hope to proponents of state laws targeting illegal aliens. A court majority ruled that Arizona could use its state power to license businesses by passing laws banning companies from hiring illegal workers.

State legislators in Alabama and other states have been trying to craft new laws targeting illegal immigrants that fit within the state's inherent power to protect the safety, health and morals of its people, said Ross, who wrote about Arizona's immigrant laws in the May 2010 edition of the legal journal, Jurist.

Alabama's new law requires employers to use the federal E-Verify system after April 2012, and creates licensing penalties for hiring illegal workers. It is likely to be upheld, Ross said.

But the new state requirement for schools to check students' and parents' immigration status could be vulnerable if it is proven to discourage children from attending school, he said.

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that undocumented children have the same right to a free public education as citizens.

"If a law discourages people from exercising a constitutional right, the Supreme Court has said many times the law is constitutionally suspect," he said. "I'm not saying that it's necessarily unconstitutional. But it is something that is likely to be stayed."

New state crimes

Another boundary limiting state immigrant laws, recent court rulings have indicated, is when states set criminal and civil penalties.

Federal judges have temporarily suspended enforcement of new state laws that either criminalize behavior that is not criminal under federal law, or laws that also could punish people living in the country legally.

Federal judges have temporarily blocked all criminal penalties in Georgia's and Utah's new laws, and some of the criminal penalties in Arizona's legislation.

But federal judges have differed on new laws in Arizona, Utah and Georgia regarding harboring or transporting illegal immigrants, or encouraging anyone improperly in the country to move or live in that state. Alabama has a similar law.

Separate judges in Utah and Georgia issued temporary injunctions, but a third judge allowed the Arizona version to go into law after ruling the plaintiffs were not likely to prove the state laws were preempted by federal law.

Final rulings by the trial-level federal judges on the constitutionality of the new state immigrant laws could take months or longer.

Ultimately, as the cases wind through federal appeals, they are likely to be bundled for a potential landmark ruling, Ross said.

"An issue that involves such intense political controversy, such difficult legal questions and such diversity of opinion is a very likely candidate for ultimate adjudication by the U.S. Supreme Court."


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