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(Swans – October 4, 2010) A predictable consequence of the dire economic crisis has been a spectacular rise in anti-immigrant sentiment in North America and Western Europe, which, combined with religious xenophobia against Muslim residents, has led to a significant growth of right-wing populism. In the U.S., former pro-immigration Republican leaders openly advocate reconsidering the 14th Amendment to the Constitution to strip it of its provision that provides automatic citizenship to any child born in the country whether or not the parents are citizens. Meanwhile, the Obama administration is quietly presiding over a much higher rate of deportations than the preceding Bush administration oversaw. Anti-immigrant rhetoric is particularly virulent among Tea Partiers and the candidates they support for the coming mid-term elections. In Europe, populist right-wing parties have been scoring substantial electoral gains by scapegoating immigrants of Muslim background. In Italy, Umberto Bossi’s Lega Nord (“Northern League”), a xenophobic party, is a member of the Berlusconi governmental coalition. In the Netherlands, Geert Wilders, the leader of the Party of Freedom (and a favorite of the American Tea Party), openly advocates banning new mosques — as the Swiss did in a recent referendum — and the Koran, stopping all immigration from Muslim countries, and deporting immigrants. In Germany, a controversial book written by Thilo Sarrazin, a forced-to-resign member of the board at the Bundesbank and former finance minister of the Berlin city-state government, and often called a mini German Wilders, has fanned a harsh debate on immigration. In France, the Sarkozy government is emulating the policies long advocated by the far-right National Front, shamelessly deporting Romas and targeting immigrants from Northern Africa. The beast is raising its ugly head (Brecht) once again — and the phenomenon repeats itself in Austria, Belgium, Britain, Denmark, Hungary, etc. Even tiny Sweden, a model of social democracy, has just elected to its parliament 20 members of the anti-immigration, far-right Sweden Democrats led by Jimmie Åkesson.
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