To Welcome or Not to Welcome: Native Sentiments Regarding Migrants In Flux

In the U.S., New Orleans police will no longer cooperate with federal immigration enforcement, thus enacting what are deemed “sanctuary city” policies likely to face pushback from opponents.  Until recently, the NOPD actively participated in immigration sweeps and detained suspected illegal immigrants.

The new policy, enacted 28 February 2016, forbids officers from so much as inquiring about an individual’s immigration status.  Immigration raids are forbidden unless there is a clear threat to public safety or a warrant has been issued.  The new policy stems from a court-supervised reform agenda after lawsuits alleging unconstitutional policing practices.

While this new policy is a step toward welcoming immigrants in the U.S., in Germany some migrants have given up hope of a better life, with many Iraqi refugees buying tickets to return to their native country. Out of the 1.1 million refugees who have arrived from countries like Syria, Afghanistan, and Iraq, a small number have grown frustrated with the process of transition and decided to go back home.

Overcrowded refugee centers, unfamiliar German food, a lack of jobs, frustrating bureaucracy, and a spreading sense of resentment from some Germans are among the reasons for refugees’ return home. Many refugees believe that they were deceived about their prospects by those who helped them get to Europe, and have consequently been angered by the dearth of opportunities. These refugees perceive that German chancellor Angela Merkel’s tone has subtly changed regarding migration to a more standoffish position, having stated her preference that refugees entering Germany will hopefully be able to go back to their home countries once there is peace and prosperity.

Additionally, after negotiations between the two countries, the Moroccan government has agreed to take back its citizens deported from Germany.  Last year, over 10,000 Moroccans came to Germany and only 3.7 percent were granted asylum.  German interior minister Thomas De Maizière and his Moroccan counterpart Mohamed Hassad have agreed to a new process for vetting returning Moroccans as well as a new planned security deal to fight against international terrorism, smuggling, organized crime, and illegal migration.

Overall, however, German government officials urge welcoming sentiments about migrants.  During his trip to Washington last Tuesday, Germany’s foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier warned about the rise in use of populist fear tactics by politicians in both the U.S. and Europe, describing such tactics as a threat to Europe, the U.S., and transatlantic relations.  Although he did not mention Republican Party frontrunner Donald Trump in his address at The George Washington University, Steinmeier expressed concerns over anti-immigrant sentiment present in the American primary campaigns.  The emergence of such sentiment in Germany, fronted by the Alternative for Germany (Afd) party, has been a recent cause of domestic turbulence.

The views expressed are those of the author(s) alone. They do not necessarily reflect the views of the American Institute for Contemporary German Studies.

Hannah Matangos

Hannah Matangos was a research intern at AICGS for the spring semester of 2016.