Ah, here we go again. Another top left, Page One immigration piece in the Washington Post : "Italy closes the door on Gypsies" [By Anthony Faiola, October 12, 2010] It's designed to strum the heartstrings of the uninformed, and without editorial malice aforethought might have been found on page ten, if at all.
Again with large photo under the headline of a gypsy woman grimacing, captioned in bold print in the print edition: "These people are dark skinned people, not Europeans like you and me"—a quote from Riccardo De Corato, deputy vice mayor of Milan.
Then under the picture: "A women talks with friends in the Candoni Gypsy camp on the outskirts of Rome. Hundreds of such camps have been closed in recent years."
I was the victim of an attempted mugging last November, in broad daylight, on a sidewalk near my hotel on Independence Square in Florence, by two men who had the appearance by their dress of gypsies. I'm 80, but I was able to fend them off by loud shouting and by banging one against the wall while keeping his hand out of my pocket. Shouting "Escuse! Escuse", they disappeared—much to my relief, as bringing charges would only have been destructive of my holiday!
And I vividly recall being in the little town of Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer in the Camargue on the shores of the Med in Southern France several years ago, during a large gypsy encampment of mobile vans, some very expensive. On the streets during this Festival Of Saint Sarah, one constantly had to guard one's wallet and person from nimble bands of thieving children.
So I have sympathy for the Italians— protecting their citizens, and the vital dollars brought by tourists, from such assaults.
But WAPO wouldn't want to miss another chance to pin the "racist" label on anyone who might be even a tad worried about being overrun with people. Any people.
It is constantly instructive to remind all of us that since the founding of the Federation for American Immigration Reform in January 1979, the world has added about 3 billion humans. And the tide of poor people seeking to move to rich countries has picked up rapidly.
Ok, let's understand that gypsies have roamed Europe for generations. And we all know that they suffered horribly under the Nazis, as did Jews and many others.
Now, however, as Europe is heavily beset with invasions from the Muslim Middle East, WAPO's Faiola reports a similar effort in France.
"Anti-Gypsy campaigns in neighboring France have sparked international criticism, with officials there in recent months deporting more than 1,000 ethnic Roma—a clannish people migrating west in large numbers from Eastern Europe. But with great bravado, Milan is taking the lead in responding to Italy's own 'Gypsy Emergency.' "
In an action that might remind Americans who read history (all ten of us!) of General MacArthur's razing of the Bonus Marchers' camp, Hooverville, in Anacostia in the 1930's:
"Blaming rising crime on the new waves of Roma immigrants, authorities are moving to dismantle Milan's largest authorized Gypsy camp, Triboniano, a teeming shantytown of street musicians and day laborers that officials decry as a den of thieves. At the same time, Milan is bulldozing hundreds of small, impromptu camps inhabited by newer arrivals and issuing mass eviction notices to Roma families living in another long-established camp in the city's largest immigrant neighborhood."
But these are not American veterans who had served their country in time of war and were shabbily dismissed by an ungrateful Congress.
No, these uninvited arrivees have made life untenable for Milanese citizens and their government—which, bless its heart, has taken action.
Would that we had similarly back-boned officials in our government.
But we can tell why the gypsy story got such prominence as the article continues,
"The immigration debate in Europe, just as in the United States, has dramatically intensified in the wake of the Great Recession, with voters increasingly blaming immigrants such as the Roma for taking away jobs, driving up crime rates and disturbing time-honored traditions.
"Across the continent, governments are boldly throwing up new barriers to immigration, increasing enforcement and targeting groups such as the Roma, who are also known as Gypsies. Even in some of the most progressive nations in the region, such as Sweden, voters are showing new support for ultra-right politicians whose platforms center on a tougher line on immigration.
"In Britain, the new Conservative-led coalition government has slapped a temporary cap on immigration from non-European Union nations, limiting the ability of companies to hire foreign nationals in a bid to drive down the unemployment rate. A permanent cap set to go into effect next year is expected to make it more difficult for even Americans to get long-term work visas there.
"In France, a proposed law could strip citizenship from foreigners naturalized for less than 10 years if they commit violent crimes against the police or a government official. New detention centers would be set up to make it easier to deport illegal immigrants. Citizens of other European Union countries—who theoretically enjoy freedom of movement across the 27-nation zone—would find it harder to stay in France if they are not law-abiding and gainfully employed.
"For a region that prides itself as a bastion of progressive thought, the campaigns in Europe have nevertheless taken on a decidedly ethnic and religious bent similar to the debates in the United States over the proposed Islamic center in Manhattan and the Arizona law targeting illegal immigrants. [Emphasis added]
"A new law in France will ban Muslim women from wearing full-face Islamic veils in public, with similar laws pending in the Netherlands and Spain. Switzerland has prohibited the construction of mosque minarets. But the campaigns against the Roma in France and Italy have stoked accusations that politicians are targeting unpopular immigrant groups to shore up flagging support.
"'There is a worrying trend in Europe in which we are seeing the embrace of populist policies,' said Benjamin Ward, the Europe deputy director for Human Rights Watch in London. 'They are creating a new climate of intolerance in Europe with movements in some countries now openly hostile to ethnic minorities and migrants.'
"Few nations, though, have gone as far as Italy, where the number of immigrants has more than doubled over the past decade, to more than 5 million."
I see this story as a real wake up call for the USA.
Racists? That's what this WAPO story is intending to imply—that anyone opposing immigration is a racist.
Personally, I am not anti-immigrant—just deeply concerned that the growth into the USA has brought too many, too fast and too illegally. We have added over 50 million immigrants and their children since 1965.
And the planet has added 3 billion people since 1979. So the pressure of immigration from poor to rich countries is going to continue.
Americans had better demand that we start a real dialogue about how many immigrants we allow in, and on what basis—instead of the greed –comes-first, votes-come-first control now exercised by the giant business power and political interests that dominate elections in both parties.
Donald A. Collins [email him], is a freelance writer living in Washington DC and a former long time member of the board of FAIR, the Federation for American Immigration Reform. His views are his own.