First off – A Vocab Lesson ( I am an English teacher now, I’m getting picky about these things) Although I have unthinkingly used the term before, I’m not a big fan of the word “amnesty” to refer to periods of immigration regularization. I prefer “regularization”, duh. It’s more neutral, it’s basic and descriptive. Amnesty is what you grant to a criminal, and one of the current dangers for immigrants is their increasing criminalization in the public’s perception, and more and more, in country’s legal systems. Now that said, let’s see who’s tossing the idea around: It seems there is increasing support for such programs in the U.K., possibly a backlash against the increasingly hard-to-ignore cruelties of the current system? Let’s hope. From The Independent:

Trade unions, religious leaders and MPs joined a growing coalition yesterday calling for illegal immigrants who have been living in Britain for a number of years and who can prove they have contributed to society to be allowed to stay. At a public assembly in Westminster last night, all four of London’s main mayoral candidates pledged their support for the plan…

Ok, good start. But, as someone who is wading through fine print at the moment, one must always think of what sweeping statements like “prove they have contributed to society” will mean on a practical basis. It might sound reasonable but what will actually be required? What might lawmakers and bureaucrats twist those words to entail in order to exclude most applicants? Remember: these people have been living illegally – outside the system – they don’t have much of a paper trail and it’s hard for them to “prove” anything about their lives outside of the present. For a different perspective, the New York Times looks at a country that’s done it – my dear España! A long article, and a good, balanced read, recognizing that the regularization may have had the efect of attracting more people. Here’s some background:

Europe has held at least 20 legalizations in the past 25 years, giving residency papers to about four million people. Italy and Spain account for about two-thirds of the total, to the consternation of northern Europeans who see the south as the Continent’s weak back door. With free movement across much of Europe, legalized immigrants can easily head north, alarming those worried about job competition, welfare costs, cultural clashes or terrorist threats. Southern Europe’s tolerance for illegal immigration has several explanations. Its aging populations and booming economies created a need for foreign workers. Its proximity to northern Africa and eastern Europe places it close to countries that supply them. And its economies have traditionally depended more on off-the-books workers. No country has run more legalization programs than Spain, which has carried out six since 1985. As recently as a decade ago, immigrants made up less than 2 percent of the population. Now they are more than 10 percent. About 40 percent come from eastern and northern Europe; 38 percent come from Latin America; and 20 percent from Africa. Despite the rapid change, until recently there was little political conflict, with legalizations occurring under both conservative and socialist governments. Spain even offers immigrants free health insurance, whether they are legal or not.

Ah so true! Though they make it hard for you to know you can have health coverage and bureaucrats of course try to set up as many obstacles as possible if they just feel like being snotty. I didn’t have health care for a year because I lost my card when changing flats and the clinic told me (wrongly) that I couldn’t get another. I was lucky I didn’t get sick and found the card again, lost in an old book (how typically me.)