Immigration is a hotly debated topic in today’s democratic process. As the world globalizes in terms of nations’ economies, trade and investment, borders are opened up more easily for a freer flow of goods and products. Are people not supposed to be given the opportunity to move around the world freely too?.
Democracy is seen as one of the ultimate ideals that modern civilizations strive to create, or preserve. Democracy as a system of governance is supposed to allow extensive representation and inclusiveness of as many people and views as possible to feed into the functioning of a fair and just society. An ideal democratic process is supposed to run in line with the ideals of universal freedom.
Democracy supposedly serves to check unaccountable power and manipulation by the few at the expense of the many, because fundamentally democracy is seen as a form of governance by the people, for the people.
Viewing from the debates of today across the globe, it appears that governments’ are having an impact on the immigration and democratic process in the world. This article is going to be exploring how different national government affects their immigration and democratic process.
THE UNITED STATE OF AMERICA AS A CASE STUDY:
The present government in power in the United State of America under the administration of President Donald Trump gave an executive order suspending immigration from Seven Muslim Countries. This drew mounting criticism from Republican members of Congress as lawmakers questioned either its effectiveness in deterring terrorist attacks or its implementation across the United State of America’s airport. Investigation shows that it is obvious from the confusion at the airports across the USA that President Donald Trump’s executive order was not properly vetted. Senator John McCain of Arizona and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina mentioned in a joint statement citing reports that the White House failed to consult with several key Cabinet departments before issuing the directive that took effect immediately. Such a hasty process risks harmful results.
The President Donald Trump however in a statement defended his actions and the administration officials clarified that permanent legal resident holders of green cards would mostly be exempt from the ban.
Democratic lawmakers denounced the ban as a violation of American values and the Constitution’s protection against discrimination based on religion. Thousands of democratic members of the House and Senate mentioned that they would gather along with Muslim refugees in front of the Supreme Court to demand the revocation of the executive order.
Despite the criticism from Democrats and some Republicans, President Donald Trump retained support from the GOP congressional leadership. House Speaker Paul Ryan, who had repeatedly criticized Trump’s proposed Muslim ban during the campaign, issued a statement saying that the president was “right to make sure we are doing everything possible to know exactly who is entering our country.”Our number one responsibility is to protect the homeland,” Ryan said. “We are a compassionate nation, and I support the refugee resettlement program, but it’s time to reevaluate and strengthen the visa-vetting process. This is why we passed bipartisan legislation in the wake of the Paris attacks to pause the intake of refugees.”
In my opinion, President Trump and his administration were right to be concerned about national security, but it’s unacceptable when even legal permanent residents are being detained or turned away at airports and ports of entry. The executive order is discriminatory on grounds of religion and should be abolished. This act alone by the U.S.A. government has affected the immigration and democratic process of the nation as it has weakened the immigration policy of the State. People are now restricted from entering the USA as the executive order targets not only Muslims but immigrants in general.
The executive order should be reviewed in line with this view by the Cabinet. What happens to the immigrants who have already become citizens? What happens to the refugees? Where would they go?
This executive order would definitely not be beneficial to the Nation and in a democratic nation like the U.S.A, government ought to be for the people. The democratic process in this nation is thereby being abused by this order and it would definitely cause national problem.
NIGERIA AS A CASE STUDY:
As is common in Africa, Nigeria also has been a destination for immigrants from the region.
Nigeria hosted approximately 10,100 immigrants in 2009; the majority of whom were from Liberia, Sierra Leone, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Voluntary repatriation and integration has been the main solution for immigrants in Nigeria.
Under a partnership involving Nigeria, Liberia, Sierra Leone, UNHCR, and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), UNHCR has continued to protect and facilitate the local integration of some 7,000 immigrants in Nigeria. The 2010 initiative, which focuses mainly on Liberians, was intended to help them generate income/find employment so they become part of the local economy.
The primary law governing immigration into Nigeria is the Immigration Act of 2015, currently governed by the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Following the principles of international law, the act provides that an alien can only enter Nigeria with a valid passport or other travel document and a visa or recognized entry permit. Admission into Nigeria is under specified conditions, including duration of stay, place of residence, place of employment, and restricted movement within the country.
Migrants of African origin wishing to reside in Nigeria are required to regularize their papers after which they are issued a resident card. The card and registration allow them to bring family members, work, and own property and businesses in Nigeria. Migrants and members of their families are protected under the Nigerian constitution to seek redress in a court of law on any issue of conflict and entitled to earn the same wages as their Nigerian counterparts.
Nigeria’s policy on immigration and migrant workers rights is greatly influenced by the ECOWAS Treaty and its numerous protocols, conventions, and decisions.
ECOWAS was founded in Lagos in May 1975 to strengthen regional economic integration through progressively freer movement of goods, capital, and people and to consolidate states’ efforts to maintain peace, stability, and security. Nigeria has played not only a primary role in its founding, but also contributes about 32 percent of its budget and hosts its headquarters.
The protocol on free movement of persons, residence and establishment, adopted in 1979, outlined a three-phase implementation: (1) the right of entry, abolition of visas, and stays of up to 90 days; (2) the right of residency after 90 days to seek and carry out income-earning employment; and (3) the right of establishment of enterprises.
According to researcher M. Leann Brown, an estimated 2 million West Africans (as many as half of whom were Ghanaians) were employed illegally in Nigeria in the early 1980s, notably in oil-related industries, ports, textiles, hotels, security firms, teaching, and domestic services. Their presence fueled concerns about illegal activities such as smuggling of goods across the borders, prostitution, destitution, and vagrancy.
Indeed, the protocol on the free movement of persons was widely perceived as causing or exacerbating Nigeria’s severe economic, social, and political problems, culminating in the Aliens Expulsion Order of 1983, during which nearly 1.5 million illegal West African migrant workers were expelled.
While the precise number of aliens affected may not be known, the massive volume of illegal migration in Nigeria was obvious as it was estimated that at least 700,000 Ghanaians, 180,000 Nigeriens, 150,000 Chadians, 120,000 Cameroonians, 5,000 Togolese, and 5,000 Beninois, among others, were forced to leave.
The Nigerian government later amended the order so that certain skilled foreigners, such as secretaries, nurses, teachers, masons, and carpenters, could stay four weeks longer or become regularized. Also, employees of federal, state, and parastatal institutions, as well as citizens of ECOWAS states, Cameroon, and Chad who had come to Nigeria before 1963, were exempted.
Despite the closure of the border in 1983, the government did not have the resources to prevent unauthorized movements. In 1984, Chadians, Cameroonians, and Nigeriens fled drought at home to come to northern Nigeria, with some Chadians also escaping political instability.
Also, a significant number of illegal aliens did not heed the 1983 expulsion order, while others managed to filter back, prompting the military government that ousted the civilian government in December 1983 to issue a second order in May 1985: illegal migrants had to either regularize their residency permits or leave the country. Again, an estimated 700,000 persons were expelled, out of which 300,000 were Ghanaians and 100,000 were Nigeriens.
Despite the emotions stirred by both expulsions, Nigeria was assessed to have acted within its rights under the ECOWAS agreement.
While statistics on intraregional flows are generally unreliable, 2006 estimates from the ECOWAS Statistics Office suggest that West African migrants account for approximately 10 percent of the total population in most West African countries.
Relative to her population size, Nigeria has a significantly smaller ECOWAS population than other Member States. Estimates based on 2000-2001 rounds of census data collected in the Global Migrant Origin Database of the University of Sussex’s Development Research Center indicate that ECOWAS citizens made up about 0.4 percent of Nigeria’s 150 million people.
However, out of an estimated 750,000 foreign-born residents in Nigeria, 74 percent were ECOWAS citizens, with another 12 percent from other African countries. An estimated 91 percent of ECOWAS citizens emigrated from five countries — Benin, Ghana, Mali, Togo, and Niger — with over 50 percent originating from Benin and Ghana alone.
Among Europeans in Nigeria, an estimated 22 percent came from Russia and about 15 percent each were from the United Kingdom and Germany. Italy, Portugal, and France were other EU Member States with a noticeable presence, together with non-EU states like Ukraine, Belarus, Serbia, and Turkey.
The Nigerian government’s democratic process appears to be more accommodating to immigrants unlike the United States of America. The laws provide for freedom of movement of immigrants within the Country as long as they meet up with certain criteria’s and there is no form of discrimination on grounds of race, colour or religion till date. The present President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria President Mohammed Buhari made no pronouncement on deportation of legal immigrants on any grounds.
Immigration and democratic participation are in many ways alike. They are long-term, non-linear processes requiring participation from different stakeholders.
Countries have different governance structures, welfare systems, state-civil society relations, as well as diverse migration histories. Immigrant populations vary not only from country to country, but also locally.
Societies are always in a process of transformation. This means that immigrants are not integrated to static societies; instead, they should adapt to societal structures undergoing a process of transformation. When these factors are put together, it is clear that immigration itself is a driving force for societal changes.
Nowadays both countries with immigration flow are being confronted with the need to define sustainable immigration policies.
The government of each nation has a key role to play in its formulation of its immigration policies to suit the needs of its citizens and immigrants in its Country.
Immigration policies are not meant to be discriminatory like we have seen in the U.S.A. The USA government (cabinet members) needs to look into the executive order and make amendments. The implementation of policies in a democratic nation is meant to be favourable to all.
Immigration available at <http://www.globalissues.org/article/537/immigration> accessed on 3rd February 2017
Democracy available at <http://www.globalissues.org/article/761/democracy> accessed on 4th February, 2017
How the Political World is reacting to Trump’s order available at <https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2017/01/republican-democrat-reaction-trump-refugee-ban-executive-order/514901/ > accessed on 4th of February 2017
Nigeria: Multiple Forms of Mobility in Africa’s Demographic Giant available at <http://www.migrationpolicy.org/article/nigeria-multiple-forms-mobility-africas-demographic-giant > accessed on 9th February 2017
 Immigration available at <http://www.globalissues.org/article/537/immigration> accessed on 3rd February 2017
 How the Political World is reacting to Trump’s order available at <https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2017/01/republican-democrat-reaction-trump-refugee-ban-executive-order/514901/ > accessed on 4th of February 2017
 Nigeria: Multiple Forms of Mobility in Africa’s Demographic Giant available at <http://www.migrationpolicy.org/article/nigeria-multiple-forms-mobility-africas-demographic-giant > accessed on 9th February 2017