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Neoliberals Come Around on Immigration

The week prior to Thanksgiving saw two surprising interventions in the global immigration debate, both by Democrats and former secretaries of state. John Kerry and Hillary Clinton said it was time for Europe to get its migration issues under control.

Two more elite representatives of the neoliberal establishment would be hard to find. Do their words reflect a turn in establishment thinking? Perhaps. The candor that occasionally slips from the mouths of more or less retired politicians? Probably. Unintended phrasing? Unlikely, as the two are pros who weigh their words carefully. In any case, the main press organ of the establishment, The New York Times, moved quickly to squelch any idea that these expressions were significant. Nevertheless, they might be.

It began when Kerry, speaking at a Guardian Live event in London, was lambasting President Donald Trump (appropriately in my view) for his climate change ignorance. He then interjected, “Europe is already crushed under this transformation that is taking place due to migration. Angela Merkel is weakened. Italian politics is significantly impacted. Well imagine what happens if water dries up and you cannot produce food in Northern Africa….” My first reaction was that Kerry wouldn’t have spoken this way—“already crushed”—unless expressing such sentiments had become acceptable and even unexceptional among the Davos set he frequents. Of course, the elaborations he gave, that the migrant surge had been bad for Merkel and Italian politics, weren’t exactly compelling. But I doubt he would have said what he said by accident.

A few days later, Clinton said almost the same thing. Clinton is more scripted than Kerry, so this surely wasn’t a random observation. In an interview also with the Guardian, she said, “Europe needs to get a handle on migration because that is what lit the fire” of Brexit and populist parties threatening liberal governments in Europe.

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While praising Merkel’s generosity to migrant asylum claimants, Clinton added that it was “fair to say Europe has done its part, and must send a very clear message: ‘we are not going to be able to continue to provide refuge and support’ because if we don’t deal with the migration issue it will continue to roil the body politic.”

Of course, both figures spoke as if the main problem was the populist reaction to the migrant surge rather than the surge itself, though Kerry did not try to mask his worry about a climate change future in which people from a Nigeria with a population of half a billion began to surge northward. And Clinton, facing a storm of dissent from her own camp (I first learned of her comments when I saw my Twitter feed flooded with left-wing snark accusing her of racism), backtracked nominally, saying she opposed Trump’s family separation policies and supported “immigration laws enforced with fairness and respect for human rights.”

The establishment rebuke, delivered by several people quoted in the Times, was that Clinton’s message was unnecessary and redundant: Western governments had already taken the necessary measures. Merkel had begun working with Turkey to stem migration, Italy had worked with Libya to cut its migrant flow by 70 percent, and so forth. There was no problem any more—move on. All this is true, but the conclusion is misleading. The migrant flows into Europe are less than they were in 2015 (when roughly a million and a half people entered in a couple of months), but they are still high and still a primary focus of public concern.

Virtually every day in the European press, there are reports of boats of migrants arriving from Africa. Spain brought ashore 894 people on Thanksgiving Thursday, when we also learned of migrant-laden boats leaving France for England.

A day later, it was reported that the northern French city of Nantes had initiated a requirement that men and women use different sidewalks on one of its main thoroughfares to prevent sexual aggression, a development inconceivable in the France that existed before mass migration. Polls regularly show that immigration is at or near the top of the list of concerns for European voters. Contrary to The New York Times and the establishment’s pro-immigration think tanks, Europe’s migrant crisis is not resolved, not even close.

What has changed is that sentiment that Europe must do something radically different about immigration is considerably more widespread than right-wing populist parties are. Two journalists from Le Monde recently published a book length investigation into the Islamization of Seine-St.-Denis, the close-in suburb of Paris. When a group of French schoolteachers and administrators broached this subject 15 years ago (in a book called Les Territoires Perdus de la République), their work encountered a kind of establishment media boycott. Now some of its points are being revived by journalists who work at the very center of the French establishment.

Two authors from the think tank Le Millénaire, close to the center-right Les Républicains party, recently published a proposal calling for [1] a “Copernican Revolution” in the way Europe regards immigration. Their core component was a “merciless battle” against illegal immigration. The authors urged that France seek agreements with third countries for retention centers for migrants, modeled on Australia’s use of the territory of Nauru.

The idea is to get migrants, including those claiming asylum, off of French territory. Write the authors:

This is a win-win solution for France (the illegal migrant is expelled) and for the third country (the retention center would be a source of employment and a reason for financial aid) and wouldn’t require the consent of the migrant’s home country.

Furthermore, the migrant would be perfectly safe, protecting France from ideological judgments of the European Justice Court. Such a policy would be powerfully dissuasive, (as the Australian policy has demonstrated, by lowering both the number of asylum claimants and deaths at sea) and the costs would be temporary, as once such a system was in place, no one would seek to illegally enter our territory.

The authors conclude that controlling illegal immigration is the only way to ensure the legal immigration that the French economy needs.

This kind of policy discourse, whose goal is to unshackle France from the various asylum protocols that make it painstakingly difficult to deport anyone who has reached French soil, is new in France but one can expect variations of it throughout Europe.

Ten years ago, French politicians in the establishment right liked to talk tough about migration at election time. Former president Nicolas Sarkozy suggested using power firehoses on rioters in the French suburbs, while Jacques Chirac once opined about “the noise and the smell” of immigrants with many wives receiving social benefits. But they never did much of anything. Now, right-of-center policy analysts are discussing in cold technocratic terms what they might actually do. Reading their proposals, with their fairly transparent disdain for the international refugee protocols that discourage deportation, brings to mind an American sentiment expressed by Lincoln and others. “The Constitution is not a suicide pact,” and neither are these migration protocols.   

I’m not suggesting that Kerry and Clinton are in agreement—they obviously are not. But I think it is likely that they hear European voices, not from the so-called populist right but from centrist politicians of the sort they speak regularly with, that consider the migrant crisis an existential threat. Kerry’s and Clinton’s words are a possible sign that Europe’s elites have developed the will to snatch survival from the jaws of shattering civilizational defeat.

Scott McConnell is a founding editor of The American Conservative and the author of Ex-Neocon: Dispatches From the Post-9/11 Ideological Wars.

32 Comments (Open | Close)

32 Comments To "Neoliberals Come Around on Immigration"

#1 Comment By Alex (the one that likes Ike) On November 29, 2018 @ 12:51 am

I guess EU centrists’ main concern is that they’ve lost countries like Italy, Austria and Hungary and want to retain at least something. But with geniuses like Manny…

#2 Comment By Petrus On November 29, 2018 @ 5:08 am

Given Hillary Clinton’s fairly universal detesting by the European right/conservatives and anti-immigrationists, the most likely reaction is some glee at the expense of European leftists/liberals after their adoration for her, but won’t change the pro-immigrationist governments’ policies (Spain, Germany, France), I’m afraid.

#3 Comment By Kurt Gayle On November 29, 2018 @ 9:15 am

Steve Bannon at the Oxford Union (Nov 16, 2018):

(18:18-20:01): “Is it really the Russians who are the threat, or is the threat what is happening in sub-Saharan Africa because we have not been engaged down there? And [in] the implosion of those societies people make a logical decision: ‘I’ve got to get out of here. And where I’m going to go is north.’ That has to be solved. Nobody argues about this biblical tragedy of the migrant crisis. I was the one–go back and read the books, read the reports—I sat there in the National Security Council and said we’ve got to draw down in Afghanistan…What I said at the time: It’s not going to be 30 billion dollars, it’s going to be 60 billion dollars—and we should spend that money in Central America in the northern triangle countries and in Mexico, because we don’t need to go to central Asia to see failed states, because we’ve got them on our borders. And just like the migrant issues drove Salvini [Italy] and others to power—the reason is: The working class in Italy, and its social welfare system, can’t take the burden of the mistakes that have been made in sub-Saharan Africa…Just like the working class in Texas, and New Mexico, and Arizona—a principally Hispanic working class—can’t bear the burden of economic migration. I’m not saying it doesn’t have to be solved. It can’t be solved on their backs. It has to be solved in those countries [Mexico, Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador]. It has to be solved by engagement.”

#4 Comment By connecticut farmer On November 29, 2018 @ 9:29 am

Has the Davos crowd finally awakened. If so, welcome to the world, John, Hillary etal!

As to the often gaffe-prone Hillary Clinton, Scott is correct when he writes that her comments were probably scripted, rendered after some considerable thought (and consultation with her comrades in arms). Thus, it is safe to assume that Kerry and Clinton, even if they aren’t necessarily the official spokespeople for the Establishment Left, given their status they may serve as a window into the collective mindset of that group concerning the issue of unbridled immigration.

In Clinton’s case one could argue (as I have elsewhere) that this is merely yet another example of Clinton Triangulation–in this case with one eye cocked towards the 2020 election. That, however, does not account for the motivation behind Kerry’s remarks.

Regardless of motivation, these comments suggest that at least two significant representatives of the Establishment Left seem to have read the tea leaves and are not happy with what they have seen.

And they may not be alone either.

#5 Comment By Kurt Gayle On November 29, 2018 @ 9:39 am

“Two authors from the think tank Le Millénaire…Their core component was a ‘merciless battle’ against illegal immigration. The authors urged that France seek agreements with third countries for retention centers for migrants, modeled on Australia’s use of the territory of Nauru. The idea is to get migrants, including those claiming asylum, off of French territory.

The U.S. is working toward such a deal with Mexico: “Asylum seekers to stay in Mexico while their claims are processed”? The Atlantic, Nov 28, 2018, Priscilla Alvarez:

“The Trump administration is reportedly brokering a deal with Mexico’s incoming government that would require asylum seekers to stay in Mexico while their claims are processed in the United States. Over the weekend, President Trump said on Twitter that migrants would have to remain in the country ‘until their claims are individually approved in court.’ While Mexican officials pushed back against the president’s tweets, saying no agreement had been reached, discussions are still under way, according to White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders. ‘We won’t have a final decision until the new government actually takes over, which will happen on Saturday,’ Sanders said at a press briefing on Tuesday, adding that a meeting between Trump-administration officials and Mexico’s new foreign minister will be held next week. Few details have been provided about the arrangement, but the general outline, as described in media reports and by the president, suggests that it would effectively make Mexico a waiting room for thousands of Central American migrants.”

[2]

#6 Comment By Mel Profit On November 29, 2018 @ 9:58 am

The Mexican government’s request of $20 billion from the US to help deal with the migrant crisis from Central America is the text to the crisis subtext. Countries like Guatemala, Honduras, Nigeria, and so on will agree to “help” stem the flow in return for cash–and lots of it. Which, blackmail being a key element of diplomacy, is not in itself unacceptable.

The problem is that most of these places have governments in name only, and thus cannot deliver the goods. (They can only take the money and relocate to Gstaad). The neocon solution? Agree to run the countries for them.

#7 Comment By Marlitt Arnouville On November 29, 2018 @ 10:15 am

Who cares what Hillary Clinton and John Kerry thinks!

#8 Comment By Mark B. On November 29, 2018 @ 11:41 am

“Kerry’s and Clinton’s words are a possible sign that Europe’s elites have developed the will to snatch survival from the jaws of shattering civilizational defeat.”

——————————————-
As a European, I rejoice. And what’s more, they also have done the math and have developed the will to snatch survival from the jaws of their own demise.

There is still a lot of will European elites need to develop to snatch survival from that. The euro is not sustainable and need broken up. The east-west differences must be solved in a way both sides can live with even if that needs some breaking-up and a new form of cooperation.

But this is a good start (when it comes to will-developing by spineless European elites). And do not forget: If you think European elites are bad, just wait what the post-elites European leaders possibly will look like. We’ve been there and done that.

#9 Comment By bacon On November 29, 2018 @ 12:02 pm

Do you have a source for the statement that men and women have to use different sidewalks in Nantes? I think something like that would make the news, busk far I can’t find it.

#10 Comment By Parrhesia On November 29, 2018 @ 12:46 pm

“possible sign that Europe’s elites have developed the will to snatch survival from the jaws of shattering civilizational defeat.”

Alas, some European countries are past the point of no return!
Britain, France, Belgium and Holland will all turn into predominantly Muslim countries in the next few decades – the strange suicide of Europe.

#11 Comment By Collin On November 29, 2018 @ 12:54 pm

C’mon there are two people that believe HRC is still a political force and they are Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. (And there book tour appears to have few participants. Note this is wise for Fox News to drop their Clinton bashing as there is a new generation of Democrats.)

Otherwise, I still think the US Immigration policy is on the 50 yard line of the Spectrum of public opinion. Most people are fine with 1M of legal immigrants, increased border protection, no Caravans, ICE going after criminals and protection of DACA participants. Your mileage may vary here on the details here. (Many people are against the Wall because it is ineffective.)

Otherwise, I figure Europe has to figure out the right Immigration policy for them which includes internal Euro Immigration as Brexit was mostly bashing Polish Immigrants. It is probably wise to cut down Immigration into Europe but I am guessing a lot of populism is 70% scapegoating real issue onto Immigrants populations.

#12 Comment By One Guy On November 29, 2018 @ 2:00 pm

@Marlitt Arnouville

“Who cares what Hillary Clinton and John Kerry thinks?”

I agree. And we can add Newt Gingrich and Rudy Giuliani to that group.

#13 Comment By Cratylus On November 29, 2018 @ 2:28 pm

Hillary is saying, “If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.” Finally she has realized that Trump won largely because of his stance on excessive immigration is hurting the American worker. So she has decided to join the Deplorables. Make no mistake about it, this is another sign that she will run again in 2020.
And the only thing that would be worse for the Dems than her losing in 2020 would be her winning. The policies of war and humanitarian imperialism that she will rev up again could well destroy the Dems. And her hostility to Russia might end up in a nuclear holocaust engulfing us all.
Nasty woman – not to mention a war criminal.

Climate change is not driving the surge of immigrants into Europe and America. The Empire’s wars and regime change ops are -from MENA (where Hillary overthrew Qaddafi) to Honduras (where she engineered the downfall of a reformer. In sub-Saharan Africa poverty (and the increase in population) are doing the same. As spelled out in the book “Has the West Lost It?” Europe should be helping to develop Africa whereas China is doing it!!!

#14 Comment By James On November 29, 2018 @ 2:41 pm

All the neoliberals I know immediately attacked Hillary for appeasing the Right. I actually see this as evidence Hillary as decided not to run in 2020.

Meanwhile, in America, more and more people want more immigration into the US, not less.

#15 Comment By Scott McConnell On November 29, 2018 @ 4:56 pm

I saw the Nantes thing on French twitter, a fairly responsible politician was tweeting about it, with photos, and no one was denying it.

#16 Comment By b. On November 29, 2018 @ 5:03 pm

The elites engineer themselves an oligarchy and inequality.
The inequality crushes the poor and the precariat.

Trump’s, Judas Goat 2016, blames it all on the immigrants, and wins, because the Great American Con is to give every sucker somebody even more powerless to deplore.

Kerry and Clinton, wannabe Just Goats 2020, blame it all on Trump. Then they blame it all on racism. Now they are blaming the racism on immigrants.

Behold, the Better Trumps are beginning to reveal themselves. Everybody, pick their goats for 2020. They won’t call the next decade the Hindsight Years for nothing.

#17 Comment By Scott McConnell On November 29, 2018 @ 5:05 pm

@bacon It seems the segregated by gender sidewalks were for one day only, as an experiment.
[3]

#18 Comment By H.Bavaadam On November 29, 2018 @ 5:11 pm

Where did you get the information about the men and women having to use different sidewalks in the French city of Nantes. I cannot find it anywhere on the internet so far.

#19 Comment By PAX On November 29, 2018 @ 10:47 pm

Water has become a world issue. Droughts and floods will continue. People will migrate around the world seeking water as they did gold in the 19th century. We need national and international policy bodies that actually plan and coordinate how water will be stored, priced, and distributed. Not the current piecemeal approach. California voters introduced an interesting piece of legislation in 1996 called Proposition 218. This proposition states that local governments may only pass through water costs that are directly related to the services being currently provided. This theoretically should get these small municipalities out of the banking and regulatory business. Unfortunately the California voter initiative process (Prop 218) moves like molasses as legal tactics obstruct and delay. California could go a step further and put all its diverse water providers under the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC). Also give this entity a more robust role as a price setter and resource planner. This state role should be emulated and coordinated at the federal level. Only through a sensible and coordinated water plan can we coordinate how many people can we allow into the country. Water should be a cabinet level appointment. Water is a defining and limiting resource as to population limits. The US can no longer under-price it water resources. Using accounting practices to value water based on costs accounting using 1930 nominal dollars is a disservice. What is the opportunity cost of water? How much to replace these systems?

#20 Comment By Ron Pavellas On November 29, 2018 @ 11:54 pm

How long before these non-principled, self-dealing, attention whores decide that “Climate Change” and its variants are a losing proposition also.

#21 Comment By Fran Macadam On November 30, 2018 @ 5:31 am

I do not believe Kerry or Clinton, especially, really changed their views on mass uncontrolled immigration, per se. What they have realized, though, is that the destabilization of the influx to rebelling voters threatens their greater globalization project. Thus from a pragmatic perspective, it was a tactical mistake, and the migrants can be tossed under the bus for the greater good. If increasing numbers of voters hadn’t balked at the dislocations, and democratic accountability caused their grip on power to weaken, they would have been perfectly fine with it – and will be, again. It may even be likely that these sentiments are insincere, just an attempt at triangulation.

It mirrors Obama’s dismissal of a distressed population as clinging to their religion and guns out of ignorance, not a serious questioning of his own elitist ideology, but how to adapt to ensure its triumph.

#22 Comment By Fran Macadam On November 30, 2018 @ 5:40 am

Kurt, no reasonable person could disagree with that excerpt you posted from Bannon. In fact I’ve sent it to people without telling them who said it. They agree, because they don’t know it was him. If on the other hand, you upfront wanted them to read something Bannon said, they refuse because they don’t want to read anything that bigoted racist writes – and so, they never have read or heard anything he actually wrote or said. They are assuming that the calumnies are correct without evidence, just because SJWs and their allies angrily insist.

#23 Comment By Fran Macadam On November 30, 2018 @ 5:52 am

“(Many people are against the Wall because it is ineffective.)”

I am idealistically against walls. But when the choice is either bullets or force against unarmed but illegal economic migrants, or just letting them swarm in by the millions who will then surely come, the humanitarian alternative is surely an effective wall that requires no violent response. And then, a revamping of ournpolicy that does not contribute to chaos, crime or economic inequality in the countries they are coming from, so that those countries can prosper for all their populations, instead of using migration as a safety valve to avoid reforms.

#24 Comment By wake On November 30, 2018 @ 7:58 am

It is obvious that Merkel made mistakes af failed to appreciate the enormity of the problem

What evidence do you have that Hillary, Kerry, or and Democrat leaders had similar failures as Merkel?

The right/reds are putting out this theme that Democrats are open boarders, but none are that I am aware of. Obama and Clinton were not. Republicans wanting labor for ag, food, and domestic services have been.

#25 Comment By Cindy Merrill On November 30, 2018 @ 1:54 pm

What the author blithely overlooks is the fact that Clinton and Kerry adhere to the standard Democrat’s double standard- Europe deserves to guard their borders, the US does not: We can’t even take care of our own homeless properly, yet we’re castigated for not accepting more immigrants into the US.

#26 Comment By MM On November 30, 2018 @ 7:27 pm

One Guy: “I agree. And we can add Newt Gingrich and Rudy Giuliani to that group.”

Whataboutism, and poorly attempted at that.

Gingrich and Giuliani never even won nominations to run for President, unlike Clinton and Kerry, who both went down in flames on Election Day, ignominiously, when halfway decent candidates would’ve easily won, given who they were running against at the time.

#27 Comment By Sturbridge On December 1, 2018 @ 12:00 am

“What evidence do you have that Hillary, Kerry, or and Democrat leaders had similar failures as Merkel?”

“What evidence”? Are you serious?

How about this:

How about “Clinton and Obama decided to destabilize Libya and turned it into a failed state. By doing that, Clinton and Obama caused a flood of refugees through northern Africa into Europe.”

How about “Kerry and Obama failed to contain the rise of ISIS and actively promoted a civil war in Syria, causing millions of Iraqis and Syrians to flood first into Turkey and then into Europe”?

In other words, Clinton and Kerry and Obama CAUSED the crap that Merkel had to deal with. It beggars belief that Clinton in particular would have the nerve to criticize Merkel. Clinton’s like a drunk driver who slammed into a family station wagon, and now she’s criticizing Merkel’s performance as the doctor who had to deal with the consequences of Clinton’s reckless, destructive behavior.

#28 Comment By Rossbach On December 1, 2018 @ 12:02 pm

“[Hillary Clinton] said, ‘Europe needs to get a handle on migration because that is what lit the fire’ of Brexit and populist parties threatening liberal governments in Europe.”

This likely expresses a change in tactics, rather than a change of heart. Hillary knows that Donald Trump defeated her in 2016 because he opposed her open-borders policies. The purpose of the open-borders policy (both in the US and in western Europe) is the same: import millions of poor, uneducated, government-dependent peasants from the Third World to create an invincible electoral majority for Leftist political parties. That this strategy is backfiring is what worries Leftists like Hillary Clinton and John Kerry, not the nation-wrecking effects of uncontrolled mass immigration.

The article mistakenly suggests that the main problem in Europe (and the US) is illegal immigration. However, if we look at the flow of legal immigrants into western Europe over the past 60 years or so, we can see that most of the economic, social, and political chaos in the receiving countries is the direct result of governmental policies that favor mass Third-World immigration.

The globalist Left has created a Frankenstein’s monster, and they have no realistic plan for dealing with it.

#29 Comment By Rossbach On December 1, 2018 @ 12:15 pm

“[Hillary Clinton] said, ‘Europe needs to get a handle on migration because that is what lit the fire’ of Brexit and populist parties threatening liberal governments in Europe.”

This likely expresses a change in tactics, rather than a change of heart. She knows that Donald Trump defeated her in 2016 because he opposed her open-borders policies. The purpose of the open-borders policy (both in the US and in western Europe) is the same: import millions of poor, uneducated, government-dependent peasants from the Third World to create an invincible electoral majority for Leftist political parties. That this strategy is backfiring is what worries Leftists like Hillary Clinton and John Kerry, not the nation-wrecking effects of uncontrolled mass immigration.

The article mistakenly suggests that the main problem in Europe (and the US) is illegal immigration. However, if we look at the flow of legal immigrants into western Europe over the past 60 years or so, we can see that most of the economic, social, and political chaos in the receiving countries is the direct result of governmental policies that favor mass Third-World immigration.

The globalist Left has created a Frankenstein’s monster, and they have no realistic plan for dealing with it.

#30 Comment By Beltway Veteran On December 2, 2018 @ 11:59 am

“The globalist Left has created a Frankenstein’s monster, and they have no realistic plan for dealing with it.”

The pro-immigration globalist Left is directly responsible for the rise of xenophobia and hatred in Europe and America. By forcing tens of millions of aliens into countries where they weren’t wanted or needed, they created violent conflict, environmental devastation, economic disaster, and an ongoing political instability and corruption that has led to populist revolts around the world. The only beneficiaries were the very wealthy and leftist politicians in big cities willing to sell out the native born in exchange for alien votes.

#31 Comment By MM On December 2, 2018 @ 1:35 pm

Ross: “This likely expresses a change in tactics, rather than a change of heart.”

Bingo. The Clintons never had beating human hearts, merely three positions on every issue, any of which they could adopt given the right circumstances.

#32 Comment By Place de la Conch On December 3, 2018 @ 7:20 pm

“The only beneficiaries were the very wealthy and leftist politicians in big cities willing to sell out the native born in exchange for alien votes.”

Well, there is the question as to whether the immigrants themselves benefited. Yes, the the native born should always have priority, but at least some of those who immigrated or fled did benefit from doing so, even if it’s only to the extent that they’re still alive.

On the other hand, many of those who came here are now isolated, alienated, jobless, economic and social burdens, and culturally and morally at odds with the societies that took them in. Some turn to crime or drugs. Those in the West who encouraged them to come didn’t really care about that part of it, any more than they cared about the effects of migrant and refugee floods on the mostly lower middle class native born who would have to live and work with them. In some cases, and Rotherham seems to have been one of them, the elites effectively tossed foreign born piranhas into a tank where native born goldfish were living, and then the elites did nothing as the foreign born piranhas gorged themselves on the native born goldfish. (It can and does happen the other way, too, of course.)