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Immigration's Dark Side, Pt. 2: Europe, South Africa - and America, by Roger Algase

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Update, April 20 at 1:58 pm:

According to Reuters and other April 20 news reports, the number of refugees who have drowned in the latest shipwreck while attempting to reach Italy from chaotic, ungovernable, ISIS-threatened Libya may have reached 900 instead of 700, as initially reported.

My original post follows:

Continuing news about the dark side of immigration, i.e. ongoing intolerance and inhumanity toward immigrants, many of whom are fleeing from intolerable conditions in their countries of residence, by the actual or intended host countries, has been available in abundance during the weekend of April 18-19.

First, there is an April 19 Reuters report:

Hundreds drown off Libya, EU leaders forced to reconsider migrant crisis

http://reuters.com/article/2015/04/1...0NA07020150419

According to this article, as many as 700 migrants seeking refuge in Europe from North Africa were feared dead on Sunday, April 19, after their boat capsized and sank of the Libyan coast, bringing to 1,500 the number who have died trying to reach Europe this year. The report quotes Pope Francis as follows:

"They are men and women like us, our brothers seeking a better life, starving, persecuted, wounded, exploited, victims of war. They were looking for a better life, they were looking for happiness."

Unfortunately, the response of anti-immigrant groups in Italy was less sympathetic, as the above article also reports:

"The leader of the anti-immigrant Northern League party, Matteo Salvini, called for an immediate naval blockade of the coast of Libya while Daniela Santanche, a prominent member of Silvio Berlusconi's Forza Italia party said Italy's navy must "sink all the boats"

Whether she knew it or not, Ms. Santanche was repeating the same inhuman sentiment that Virgil ascribed to the vengeful goddess Juno 2,000 years ago in Book 1 of the Aeneid, when Juno urges Aeolus, god of the winds, to sink the boats of the legendary first immigrants to Italy and founders of what was eventually to become the Roman empire:

incute vim ventis summersasque obrue puppis /aut age diversos et disice corpora ponto.

("Put force into your winds, and sink their ships, or tear apart their [sailors'] bodies and scatter them into the sea.")

One can only wonder what Virgil, arguably the greatest poet whom Italy has ever produced (certainly in the opinion of Dante) would have thought if he could have heard someone who might be able to claim to have inherited the Roman tradition speaking with such hatred and cruelty toward innocent, defenseless refugees.

This could truly equal, if not exceed, the hatred of Juno toward the legendary hero, Aeneas, and his fellow survivors of the Trojan War, as Virgil describes in the following line (also in Book 1 of the Aeneid):

saevae memorem Iunonis ob iram

("Because of savage Juno's never forgotten rage")

Virgil also asks, in the same Book 1:

tantaene animis caelestibus irae ("Can gods possess such anger?")

In the same way, one can also ask whether someone who has any vestige of normal feeling left could possibly give in to the vicious and inhuman wish to drown every refugee trying to reach Europe from North Africa, as expressed by the contemporary European politician mentioned above.

On a more humanitarian note, Reuters also quotes Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat as follows:

"A tragedy is unfolding in the Mediterranean, and if the EU and the world continue to close their eyes, it will be judged in the harshest terms as it was judged in the past when it closed its eyes to genocides when the comfortable did nothing."
(Bold added.)

An even more ominous sign of the fate that could have been awaiting some of the drowned immigrants if they had remained in Libya appears in a Huffington Post story of the same date:

ISIS Video Purports To Show Killing Of Ethiopian Christians In Libya

(I do not have a URL for this article, but it should be available through http://www.huffingtonpost.com/world)

This article describes yet another ISIS video purporting to show shooting and beheading of its victims, this time consisting (according to the report) of Ethiopian migrants who were presumably trying to reach Europe through Libya.

It is highly unlikely that Virgil could have possibly imagined a group of people resembling ISIS in any way whatsoever when he wrote as follows, again in Book 1 of the Aeneid, about the "noble" Romans whom his great epic work was intended to glorify:

hinc populum late regem belloque superbum / venturum exidio Libyae;

"From there a people wide in rule and skilled in warfare would come to destroy Libya".

Professor Greg Woolf, in his book Rome: An Empire's Story (Oxford University Press, 2012), refers to the "atrocities", including riots, lynchings and cold-blooded political murders, which took place in Rome at the end of the Republic during the first century B.C.

But, just in case there is anyone who thinks that atrocities were only associated with ancient Rome, the treatment of immigrants seeking refuge in certain supposedly "advanced" countries of Europe and America in the early 21st century of our present era has a good deal to teach us.

Nor is anti-immigrant hatred, accompanied by violence or threats of violence, limited to Europe and America, but it is also alive and well in South Africa, according to an April 19 Huffington Post article (which should be available at the same site as that given above for the ISIS story) entitled:

Immigrants Describe Facing Threats and Violence In South Africa

This article describes violence and terror directed against immigrants to South Africa mainly from neighboring Southern African Countries, but also from Asia, at the hands of individual or informal groups of South African citizens, not the government, which appears to be trying to protect them, with only partial success.

The Huffington Post article reports:

"The attacks stem from a perception that immigrants are taking jobs at the expense of South Africans in a country with high unemployment. Many people from other countries have entered South Africa illegally, though the government has said that a large number are working legally and contributing to economic development."

The report continues:

"Some African countries are arranging to repatriate their fearful citizens and there have been protests and calls for a boycott of South African goods...Immigrants from Asia and the Middle East have also been affected by the violence in South Africa."

As I mentioned in Part 1 of this 2-part series, hundreds of immigrants drowning while trying to reach EU countries from North Africa, or the existence of anti-immigrant violence in South Africa, may seem remote from the current issues which immigration advocates on both sides of the issue are concerned with in the US, such as whether to raise the annual cap on H-1B visas for skilled workers or ease the backlogs for employment-based permanent resident applicants (as contained in a sensible and badly needed bi-partisan Senate bill introduced by Senator Orrin Hatch - R-Utah - which some experts give very little chance of passage - no doubt precisely it is so rational and timely).

But behind the surface debates over economic statistics and arcane legal provisions which inevitably accompany every discussion of immigration in the US, there is also a streak of irrational anger and scapegoating of immigrants among some sections of the public and our political classes that wish to sink, if not the ships of skilled immigrants in the US, at least their chances of being able to stay and work in this country.

And while drownings of immigrants trying to find refuge in America from conditions in Mexico and Central America that are almost as dangerous as those in chaotic and ungovernable countries such as Libya (now that Virgil's benevolent legendary queen Dido has long since been replaced and is now being supplanted by ISIS) are few, deaths in the desert are high.

So is the level of cruelty directed against Central American mothers and their children seeking asylum in America in our private, for profit immigration detention system, which also qualifies as an atrocity by any reasonable humanitarian standard.

Americans of good will should be following these developments in Europe and Africa closely, and with a good deal of concern, lest our own country, which already has its own share of prejudice and hate, go even further down the road of anti-immigrant madness which is now breaking out in some other parts of the world.
________________________________
Roger Algase is a New York lawyer and a graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Law School. He has been helping skilled workers and family-based immigrants overcome the obstacles of our complex immigration system and achieve their goals of living and working in America for more than 30 years.

Roger welcomes questions and comments addressed to algaselex@gmail.com

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Updated 04-20-2015 at 12:59 PM by ImmigrationLawBlogs

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