In December of 2016, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban was so livid with Angela Merkel’s immigration policies that he publicly blew up on the subject, telling Germany that they were trying to pass the buck for their “mistake.”
Upon arriving in Brussels for the EU Council meeting, he insisted that Hungary would not comply with the policy. While the meeting was expected to revolve around the crisis in Aleppo, Orban seized on the occasion to slam migration, asserting that most of those arriving in Europe are not real refugees but “economic migrants.”
It was Orban’s stance that the Germans and other countries made the ill-advised decision to let these people in and were now compensating for that fact by trying to spread them out across Europe. “The Hungarians don’t want what the Germans, or to be precise, Angela Merkel demands…Hungary doesn’t like this approach,” he said.
Orban’s pronouncement that he would do everything in his power to stonewall the policy came as quite a blow to the show of unity on display among the 29 countries present at the EU meeting.
Since then, Orban’s ire has not diminished; in a letter to the President of the European Commission dated September 6th, 2017, he writes, “Hungary is not an immigrant country, does not want to become an immigrant country and cannot accept being forced to change this.”
Orban’s decidedly isolationist position is unique in that he is not bound by the legacy which has haunted other countries with colonial pasts. This is why he does not feel obligated to take in immigrants.
Furthermore, he points out in his letter that European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker misuses the word “solidarity” when describing Europe’s shared responsibility, explaining that by forcing Hungary to take in immigrants, it isn’t “solidarity” but “violence.”
It’s an interesting choice of words, not only because the immigration issue is one that is so problematic but, also, because immigration itself has become synonymous with violence.
Between April 15th and October 31st of 1980, the Mariel boatlift saw as many as 120,000 Cubans fleeing their home country and pouring into the Florida Keys. This mass emigration caused political problems for then-President Jimmy Carter and resulted in much bloodshed as vicious criminals crept in and drug smugglers benefited from the general confusion.
As Rolling Stone journalist Hunter Thompson wrote in the wake of the so-called Freedom Flotilla, “By 1980, the billion-dollar drug-smuggling industry and influx of Latin-American millionaire refugees had turned Miami into the Hong Kong of the Western World.”
While one can clearly see the benefits of such emigration, particularly the temporarily positive impact it had on the local economy, the other side of the coin at least somewhat supports Prime Minister Orban’s remark about “economic immigrants.”
Here in the US, there are more than eleven million illegal immigrants. On July 1st of 2013, the Center for Immigration Studies published a report claiming that a then-new analysis of government data found that all of the net gain in employment over the prior thirteen years had gone to immigrants, both legal and illegal.
The report in question acknowledged a significant decline in the number of natives working which was alarming at the time and is even more alarming now. Which brings us back to what Prime Minister Orban was saying about “economic immigrants.”
To put it another way, there is a world of difference between someone like Elian Gonzalez, a little boy, escaping Cuba on an inner tube because of a volatile International custody battle versus a grown man emigrating to another country to work for illegal, off-the-books wages. Or, for that matter, a parade of immigrants arriving en masse to undermine the national economy.
Prime Minister Orban’s assertion that the relocation of asylum-seekers would open the doors to a “mixed culture and population” may sound like it speaks to a contemporary state of fear, that is to say, fear of the other. But, when his remarks are weighed more carefully, it seems obvious that his concerns are for the financial well-being of his people.
With the unemployment rate at an all-time low (4.20%), labor costs down and employment up to 59.43%, Hungary is in a secure fiscal position at the moment, but the country has its checkered past when it comes to economic hardship.
In the 1980s, under Communist rule, the country lacked the liberties so many other countries hold dear—the freedom of private ownership and enterprise, to say nothing of fundamental civil liberties. In 1989, the prices of food rose by 13.8 percent in the first quarter alone.
Change came to the Hungarian people in a sluggish manner which goes far toward explaining, if not justifying, Orban’s remarks. Of course, an issue as enormous as that of immigration is not so cut and dry. One glance at the polarity of immigration policy across the globe shows just how divisive this subject is and what a task it is for world leaders to get a handle on it.
Japan’s strict immigration policies have resulted in foreigners making up a mere 1.7 percent of the population as of 2010. Consequently, they are faced with a steep decline in population, one where the low birthrate can hardly compete with the death rate.
Nearly sixteen-thousand asylum-seekers sought refuge in Australia back in 2012. The country’s hard-line position on unlawful immigration has lead to foreign children being sequestered in detention centers, an action that has been the subject of much controversy.
Denmark has recently cemented its reputation as Western Europe’s least attractive country for refugees, having passed legislation that enables Danish authorities to seize any assets in excess of $1,450 from immigrants to help cover the cost of their subsistence while in the country.
Despite these various countries’ attitudes towards immigration, mass emigration, whether legal or illegal, has been unstoppable. Since the Sixties, Denmark has struggled to reduce the number of immigrants, but by 2013, there was an estimated 33,000 illegals inhabiting the Scandinavian Kingdom.
According to 2017 statistics, there are at least 64,000 aliens living illegally in Australia with two-thirds of them representing those who came on legal visas and overstayed their welcome.
These astronomical numbers speak to the global problem we are all facing, one that smacks of both desperation and greed. And those numbers are even crazier here in the US where the Pew report suggests that there are 11.3 million undocumented aliens living among us.
And while those numbers have remained flat over the last few years, it is still a staggering amount of immigrants to even conceive of. It is also a number that the current administration intends to deal with.
Much like Orban’s refusal to comply with Andrea Merkel’s immigration policy, President Trump refuses to let any more illegal aliens enter the United States without a fight.
Even though his promise that America would make Mexico pay to build a border wall failed when Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto refused to foot the bill, Trump remains steadfast in his intention to keep out the unlawful element.
The House has successfully passed no less than two stringent immigration bills that will work to deter immigration by increasing prison sentences for those re-entering the United States without permission and by putting the screws to sanctuary cities that don’t comply with federal immigration officials.
So, although Orban calling the court ruling a “rape” of EU law seems a bit extreme, his politics may be more sound than his choice of words suggest. The numbers speak for themselves.