What a week it’s been; we’ve had two ‘-gates’, #CameronMustGo and even #OsborneMustBeUrineTested. Furthermore, last Friday frenzied shoppers trampled each other into linoleum floors trying to pick up some (let’s be honest, not that great) offers on TVs and electrical items. But I don’t want to talk about any of that. I want to talk about that which we are ‘never allowed to talk about’: immigration.
I wish to start with a caveat before I get accused of being a ‘typical, anti-white racist liberal free-speech-hating fascist’. I actually do believe that in the past some sections of the left have been far too keen to shout down any opposition to immigration as racist, and that this has, in no small part, contributed to the rise of UKIP and the ‘can’t even say anything in my own country anymore’ mentality.
There is indeed evidence that immigration does depress wages at the low end of the labour market and increases job insecurity and erodes workers’ rights by increasing flexibility for employers. I tend to view these as flaws within capitalism rather than immigration, and believe the solutions are economic, but a person affected by these realities who complains about them is not being racist per se. Also, when a community is hit by a sudden, large-scale influx of immigration it can change the character of the community and will indeed put pressure on the services there, particularly schooling. Dare I say it, but while often in such areas the line between being anti-immigration and racist is often crossed, opposition to it does not always simply boil down to racism.
However, my defence of immigration anxiety stops there. For this week, in my eyes, this thin line was well and truly crossed. On Tuesday, the Daily Express managed to tear themselves away from ‘How scroungers are affecting your ability to buy Lady Di mugs with your pension’ for long enough to come out with the truly astounding headline ‘Hidden Migrant Millions’. The hidden migrants in question are children, born in Britain, many of them born to individual migrants with British partners, even if said migrants have lived and worked here for 30+ years. The bright idea to classify these children born in Britain as migrants is the brainchild of think-tank Migration Watch, and is allegedly borne of their concern that the effects of immigration on public services is not being fully recognised due to the children of migrants not being included.
Let me be absolutely clear: treating second-generation immigrants as migrants is grotesque. It makes a complete mockery of the idea of integration, stigmatises people born in this country with just as much a stake in it and rights as any of the rest of us and is an open invitation for racists to treat anyone of a different ethnicity as un-British and deny them their equal role in our society. As Labour’s Lord Wood pointed out, this would define Winston Churchill, Prince Charles and even Farage’s own children as migrants, showing just how ludicrous the idea is. Likewise, I’m doing French as part of my degree and aim to spend a few years there, yet if I returned with a French wife and started a family I would find – shock horror! – that I suddenly had migrant children. The list of examples is endless, but I hardly feel it needs more to show how absurd this idea is.
There is a very serious point here, however. The Daily Express do not care at all about public services, but only about selling papers through reinforcing their grotesque caricatures of immigrants and whipping up moral panics. Likewise, Migration Watch have shown they aren’t interested in integration or any form of harmonious co-existence and simply want to shut our borders for good. But here’s the thing, I’m a white Briton. I get angered by such drivel, I tweet a few sarcastic comments and then go about my daily business and more or less forget about it until I end up writing a blog post concerning it on Black Friday rather than enjoying having my face pushed into some Smart TVs. Yet this headline and concept gives anyone of a different skin colour or with an unfamiliar accent a very good reason to feel alienated, unwelcome and even afraid. It should not be the job of the left to shut down debates, but it should always be our job to point out injustice and prejudice. So let’s have our immigration debate, but for goodness sake, keep it civil; we are British, after all.