Immigration Laws Around the World

I am often appalled at race and immigration issues in the United States. The latest Arizona flap and the Texas, Georgia and Colorado efforts to pass similar legislation are a blot on our nation. That said, as I see it, we are in the midst of an amazing experiment in our nation. The question is, “Can a large nation of 300,000,000 people live and work together with large populations with differences in cultures, religions, political inclinations, skin colors, ethnic backgrounds and personal desires?” It is easy to be racially inclusive in a nation where there are few or no racial differences. Europe, for example, was largely Caucasian and Christian. Even so, there has been a history of religious and territorial wars and discrimination against people of our elasticities in almost all nations there.

Japan is a largely mono-racial, mono-religious and mono-ethnic nation. There is much I admire in the Japanese culture, but Japanese are racially biased and have never faced that fact. In my day as a US airman stationed there, I well remember that on the base, black and white women and men freely worked together with mutual respect and often close friendship. As soon as we walked out the guards at the gate, we were faced with some bars and brothels which only catered to white airmen and others only for black. (The Christian Servicemen’s Center that I frequented served ALL comers and encouraged us to be open and be close friends across racial lines.)

Europe has reacted badly to the influx of large numbers of people of color and those of non-Christian religions.

Much as I lament the atrocious laws of Arizona–and many other conservative legal actions which discriminate against people of color, women and poor people–I am never the less proud of being part of this great experiment that is the United States, and hope that this experiment will lead to greater peace and justice throughout the world.

The World’s Worst Immigration Laws

Think Arizona’s new immigration law is harsh? The Grand Canyon state has nothing on these guys.



Country: Italy

Immigrant population: 3.9 million

What the law does: Like much of southern Europe, Italy faces the daunting challenge of trying to regulate and manage massive migration inflows from North Africa and the Mediterranean. In response, the Italian government has instituted various measures aimed at curbing immigration. One of the harshest, passed by parliament in 2009, penalizes illegal immigrants with a fine of €5,000-10,000 and allows immigration officials to detain them for up to 6 months.>Reactions: Suffice it to say that Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s tough new legislation has done little to allay the rising tension in Italy over immigration and its role in Italian society. This tension came to a head this January when race riots erupted in Rosarno, a small town in the southern region of Calabria that is home to some 20,000 migrant workers, many of whom are African. The riots, which lasted for two days, left cars destroyed, shops looted, more than 50 immigrants and police officers wounded, and many rioters handcuffed and detained.


Country: Switzerland

Immigrant population: 1.7 million

What the law does: Switzerland’s uneasy relationship with its Muslim immigrant population became very public in recent years thanks to the rise of the far-right Swiss People’s Party (SVP) and the referendum that resulted in a ban on mosque minarets in 2009. One subject that hasn’t been getting as much publicity, however, is a tough new immigration law proposed by the SVP that is currently awaiting referendum. The law would allow the Swiss government to immediately deport all convicted criminals from other countries and — depending on which specific provisions of the bill pass — potentially their family members.

Reactions: After the SVP distributed a now-infamous poster in 2007 depicting three white sheep kicking out one black sheep above the caption “For More Security,” the U.N. instructed its special rapporteur on racism to request an official explanation from the government regarding the poster (at the time, the SVP held a plurality of seats in the Swiss coalition government). Swiss society has become polarized over the immigration law debate. In 2007, opponents of the bill formed the short-lived “Black Sheep Committee” to support immigrants rights — but enthusiasm for the SVP and its policies continues to grow.


Country: Australia

Immigrant Population: 5.5 million

What the law does: Despite its anything-goes image, Australia has a surprisingly draconian immigration policy. And none of the country’s various immigration laws is more controversial than the Migration Reform Act of 1992 and its subsequent amendments, which collectively require the authorities to detain all non-citizens who are discovered in Australia without a valid visa. Between 1999 and 2003, the law was used to detain more than 2,000 child refugees from Southeast Asia and the Middle East who were seeking asylum in Australia.

Reactions: The law has seriously irked human rights NGOs. In 2001, Human Rights Watch sent Prime Minister John Howard a forceful letter arguing that the legislation “seriously contravenes Australia’s obligations to non-citizens, refugees and asylum seekers under international human rights and refugee law.” Three years later, the Australian Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission released a report condemning the government for the abuses and human rights violations child refugees suffered while being detained. Although Kevin Rudd’s government has softened certain provisions of the law, it is still being employed to intercept and detain illegal immigrants.


Country: Japan

Immigrant Population: 1.7 million

What the law does: Japan has long struggled with its demographics and immigration problems. Although the country’s aging population necessitates the importing of cheap labor, recently the Japanese government has sought to curtail immigration in an effort to shore up its unprecedentedly high unemployment figures. The most infamous of Tokyo’s new anti-immigration policies is the “Nikkei” Law. Passed in spring 2009, the law allows the Japanese government to pay $3,000 to each unemployed Latin American immigrant of Japanese descent (known as Nikkei in Japanese) and $2,000 to each of that unemployed worker’s family members to return to their country of origin. The catch? These workers and their family members would be prohibited from ever returning to work in Japan. An estimated 366,000 Brazilians and Peruvians lived in Japan at the time.

Reactions: Although the law is voluntary, it’s nevertheless stirred up a deal of controversy within Japan. Some support the measure as being economically prudent, while others, such as Angelo Ishi of Musashi University in Tokyo, describe the law as “an insult” to Japan’s immigrant communities. Much of the Western press has taken a relatively neutral stance on the issue, aside from Time, which ran a story with the headline “Japan to Immigrants: Thanks, But You Can Go Home Now.”


Country: United Arab Emirates

Immigrant population: 3.75 million (83.5 percent of total population)

What the law does: An abundant supply of cheap immigrant labor from Southeast Asia and India has helped make the UAE a major destination for foreign direct investment. Yet despite a surge of immigration into the Emirates over the past decade, the government has yet to reform its many draconian immigration policies and labor laws. One of the toughest provisions in Emirati immigration law is the prohibition of foreigners from engaging in any sort of labor union-like activity. As a result, living conditions are often harsh, including 80-hour work weeks, back-breaking manual labor, and below-minimum-wage pay. It’s not atypical for immigrants to live in “tiny pre-fabricated huts, 12 men to a room, forced to wash themselves in filthy brown water and cook in kitchens next to overflowing toilets.”

Reactions: Whereas in the past criticism of UAE immigration and labor law seemed to come only from human rights NGOs and international organizations like the U.N., more recently the immigrants themselves have begun to denounce such laws. Immigrant workers in Dubai have been particularly vocal. In 2006, a group of blue-collar workers in Dubai held a union meeting and protested the unfair working and living conditions that their employers subject them to. More recently, in September 2009, construction workers went on strike and protested in the streets, demanding higher wages and overtime pay.



  1. mike chang
    Posted May 2, 2011 at 12:25 am | Permalink | Reply

    you know the immigration issue is more of a fiscal issue in the US than a social issue. you can argue morals with anyone youre whole life. but facts dont lie. illegal immigrants put and financial strain on any countries finances. whos paying for their health care and government services? many illegals dont have tax IDs. how can you become a member of a nation without giving anything back? i pray for the day where these petty social issues will be behind us. but for now the US has to get its own damn self sorted out before it can be extending all of these fiscal olive branches to our fleeing neighbors. also why are you so critical of AZ? they voted in their own laws. thats kinda how things are supposed to work in American no? why arent you critical at Mexico for not increasing social services and looking out for the welfare of its countrymen and women? the fact that a lesser developed country has reached its current social carrying capacity does not mean the US should intervene and try to help these people individually but help mexico as a neighbor and an ally. you rarely hear of US citizens illegally immigrating to other countries for “opportunity” what did we do right in that sense? isnt helping the host nation better than stretching our own thin to help someone that is unsure how to help itself? either way good info and have a good week all.

    • Posted June 22, 2011 at 7:06 pm | Permalink | Reply

      Your “facts are wrong.” The fact is that undocumented immigrants pay more in taxes than the services they use. All of them pay sales taxes on everything they purchase, food, clothing, shelter. Furthermore, while they are unable to obtain a legitimate social security card, they often purchase counterfiet cards with phony numbers. The employer pretends not to know, withholds taxes nd FICA and pockets that. In the cases where they do submit it to the government, those taxes either go to the wrong person’s account or are put in a suspense account. In either case the worker has paid the tax but cannot receive the benefits.

      While it is true that they are forced to use clinics and emergency room medical service, so too are many U.S. citizens who are uninsured because of the greed of the insurance industry.

      On the subject of Mexico, I am personally very critical of the Mexican elite and the Calderon administration. The PRI and PAN parties have stolen elections and have followed the US pattern of moving the wealth away from workers and toward the elites. Carlos Slim did not become the richest person in the world honestly.

  2. Faith
    Posted March 16, 2012 at 3:40 pm | Permalink | Reply

    People! Illegal is and will always be wrong doing. These people are criminals. A criminal is someone who breaks a law. Immigration is a law. I am morally against abortion but my tax dollars fund thousands of abortions a week. If I, a nice person who only wants what’s best for my family and nation, prevents another from obtaining said abortion, I am breaking the law. I could be fined or do jail time depending on the severity of the offense. Whether a person is nice or their nationality is not and should not be an issue. Until the laws change they are breaking the law with impunity. Sending lawbreakers home with a slap on the wrist and a wave goodbye is an extremely mild punishment compared to a multitude of countries that would Ponce and chuck them in prison before the ink was dry on their forged social security card or passport.

    • Posted March 16, 2012 at 10:48 pm | Permalink | Reply

      No one is a criminal until so judged in a court by a jury of his peers. So being an undocumented immigrant is not necessarily being a criminal. In fact Homeland Security has declared, ““The immigration laws are civil in nature,” Morton said. “There are criminal immigration offenses but mainly they are misdemeanors in most instances, although a lot are serious felonies. For example, if you enter the country on a visa and you overstay your visa, that is a civil but not a criminal offense. There is some overlap. Sometimes you are here unlawfully and you’re also guilty of a crime. But it is not one to one.”
      Deporting undocumented immigrants without trial is contrary to the Fourteenth Amendment, which affirms that neither the federal government nor state governments may “deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” An undocumented immigrant has violated immigration requirements, but is still a legal person under the law, as is anyone under the jurisdiction of the law. The equal protection clause was written to prevent state governments from defining any human being as anything less than a legal person.

      • Sandy
        Posted June 30, 2012 at 11:56 am | Permalink

        I disagree with you. They are in the country illegally, they are illegal. The issues they are running away from in Mexico, they are creating here. There is total lack of respect for the law, which is part of the problem in Mexico. They do not obey our laws. Many operate vehicles without licenses, without insurance, have illegal medical practices. When we don’t enforce the laws of the land, then we create areas rife with corruption, violence, and poverty.

      • Posted July 9, 2012 at 5:12 am | Permalink

        You have the right to disagree. Your description of Mexico is incorrect. There is more crime in most large US cities than in Mexican cities. You are correct that many drive without licenses. The laws preventing anyone from training, preparation and examination are counter-productive, of course. The flow is actually now in reverse because of the economic realities. Fewer are entering than are leaving.
        Of course, the wealthy in Mexico are doing their best to destroy that country as they have ours.

  3. Grumpy
    Posted June 25, 2012 at 5:35 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Why is the U.S. the ONLY country in the world that is expected to allow illegals to enter freely. If you are a person who would allow illegals to come in with no restrictions, then maybe you should take your next vacation and try entering Mexico, England, Kuwait, or any other country without papers and see what happens. Or better yet, China or North Korea where the punishment could include 10 years in prison and/or death (if declared a spy). I have been around the world twice and no country I have ever been to has laws that allow more freedoms than ours, (including England, France, Italy, Greece, Japan, Tailand, South Korea, and a dozen other countries).

    • Posted June 26, 2012 at 6:25 am | Permalink | Reply

      Over 50% of undocumented immigrants enter the United States legally. They then overstay their visas or do something else against the visa rules. An example is the person on a student visa who drops out and takes a job. Moreover, there are a number of reciprocal agreements between countries that allow their citizens to enter other countries freely–especially in the modern countries of Europe. Actually England, France, Italy and Greece do allow interchange. They wouldn’t allow you in without a visa because you are an American.

      In Mexico, there are thousands of U.S. citizens who have no problem entering and leaving freely. Some of them violate Mexican law by entering on a non-working visa and then starting a business without getting proper permission and paying the requisite taxes.

  4. Posted January 1, 2013 at 1:22 pm | Permalink | Reply

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    • Posted February 17, 2013 at 6:58 am | Permalink | Reply

      Hi. Nothing special about the blog. I just repost stuff that I find elsewhere and that seems important. I hope that some folk who otherwise would miss these items get to see them. I only have about 30 regular readers.

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  6. Posted April 14, 2013 at 8:21 pm | Permalink | Reply

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    • Posted June 9, 2013 at 4:32 am | Permalink | Reply

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  8. Posted August 3, 2013 at 12:31 am | Permalink | Reply

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  9. Posted August 9, 2013 at 1:42 am | Permalink | Reply

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    • Posted August 15, 2013 at 5:06 pm | Permalink | Reply

      Thanks Bev. I’m not sure what made me note that. I scan or read about 15 news sources every day and note important things that pop up or speak to my own political slant. I have lived in several countries besides the US and am sensitive to the issues of immigrants, both legal and undocumented.

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  12. Posted September 20, 2013 at 11:14 am | Permalink | Reply

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