Spurred by Isabelle’s comment on the last post , and the realization of my own lapse in following the Spanish news on this front recently, I decided to check up on the PP (Partido Popular -the conservatives) and immigration policy. And whoa! What did I find! This beauty: The PP, in the person of Mariano Rajoy, would have immigrants sign a “Integration Contract.” (For the Spanish-speaking here’s a link to the video of his speech, wish I’d been there with old veggies to heckle.)

What does this mean? Apparently immigrants would sign a contract declaring that they will:

obey the law, respect Spanish customs, learn the language, pay their taxes and social security like everyone else, work actively towards integration, and return to their country if, during a period of time, they do not manage to find employment.

Bottom line, if someone puts this in front of me to sign in the near future, I would be deeply offended. And if I wasn’t in a particularly diplomatic mood, I’d tell them where to shove it.

Deep Breath. Let’s break it down so I can tell you why…..(while barely containing my outrage)

Obey the law.
If I don’t obey the law, arrest me! That’s how it works. Immigrants, just like anyone else, are subject to the law, and they know it. Why put it in there unless you think we somehow don’t understand that? It’s as repugnant as asking someone to sign a loyalty oath.

Learn the Language.
Despite right wing rhetoric, most people do want to learn the language of their adopted country – it is in every way to their benefit to do so, in helping with job opportunities, the education of their children, wrangling bureaucracy and social services, you name it. Compulsory language tests and similar requirements just generally put those with the least resources (educational, financial, social) upon coming to a new country at an even greater disadvantage.

Respect Spanish customs.
Sounds nice, but what the hell does this mean? Someone please tell me. What “customs” are immigrants not respecting currently? Did we all not sing enough nauseating Spanish Christmas carols? Do we not collectively consume enough ham? Do we not spend enough time drinking in the streets, doing botellón? Do we not sing enough flamenco? Do we get too much stuff done hoy instead of mañana? What great bastion of Spanish tradition, pray tell, is going to be defended by this provision?

Pay their taxes and social security like everyone else.
Oh gawd, second deeeeeeep breath. Ok I’ve lost it! I’m sorry!But WTF!!! Most immigrants are dying to pay taxes! They’d love to pay taxes! They’d have a big party to celebrate the first time they get to pay taxes! They would hug the Spanish government for taking their money because it would mean THEY’RE FINALLY LEGAL!!

And as for the “like everyone else” part, I see Spaniards everywhere doing everything possible to avoid paying taxes. I know at least half a dozen people who, though they work full time, have been denied a full time contract because their employers wanted to pay tax on only part of their wages. This happens routinely in bars and similar occupations, but also to a friend who was working as school teacher at a prestigious and expensive private school. The unwillingness of many employers to give full-time contracts (for that very reason) is one of the major stumbling blocks to immigrant legalization (as a full-time, one-year contract is a prerequisite for applying for work papers). So how about Spanish employers signing a pledge to clean up their practices before you condescend to demand we pledge to pay our taxes? Grrrrrr….ok….gotta simmer down now….

Work actively towards integration.
Again, sounds nice, but like “respect Spanish customs” what does this mean? I’ll tell you what it doesn’t mean. I doubt highly that it means government “inspectors” will be visiting the British beach communities, demanding that these folks stop speaking English all the time, and eating at imported “Irish pubs.” (And I do know British and Irish people who have been here 6 or 7 years and can’t order their meal in Spanish). French people who eschew Spanish wine in favor of their own varieties won’t be held up as “not integrating enough.” No, that would be silly, cuz they’re European, and rich, and so no one will bother them. Who will be under fire? Moroccans, Senegalese, Romanians, the poor, the eastern , the non-white, the distinctly un-European “other.”

And anyways how do you define when someone’s doing enough to integrate anyways? It’s a ridiculous proposition, ultimately unenforceable and an utter waste of time.

Return to their country if they become unemployed during a long period of time.
This is the only stipulation that might possibly have some merit. But it’s redundant in a fashion. Most immigrants who have permission to work here must periodically renew their permits, which requires that they show they have a job, a contract. So what’s the point of restating here someting that is already built into the immigration process?

In sum. This is a lot of hot air. This contract would be “legally valid” says Rajoy. How? How would these things be enforced? What new, giant, slow, ineffective Spanish bureaucracy would be created to enforce it? It’s practically impossible.

So what’s the purpose? Rhetoric. To look “strong” on immigration, while using the language of a contract (that the “Spanish people” are party to, unenforceably, on the other side) to sound fair, and even-handed. To scare the immigrant, to make him/her think that the government is watching, keeping track of how you’re “integrating.” To keep immigrants quiet, lest protests and criticisms from them be considered “disrespectful” or “disruptive”. Don’t you want to integrate? Don’t you want to just go along with things? Don’t you want to avoid making a fuss?

Botom line it’s offensive. The presumption of guilt is offensive. Having to state that you will be a reasonable, responsible person when you’ve done nothing to show otherwise is offensive. There are already plenty of regulations in place to keep immigrants “in line”, and we are all subject to the law. Having to repeat these things here in a one-sided contract is, grrrrrr, no other word for it….offensive.