work visa that hinged on speaking up, not staying
silent—a sea change from present approaches that
virtually guarantee newcomers will not complain
about exploitative treatment.
Under the program, a migrant would become eligible to work in the U.S. on a TLC visa after joining
a transnational organization of workers, rather than
through a link to a particular employer as temporary-worker schemes currently require. Those organizations
would be part of a cross-border network of nonprofit
groups, with support from both the U.S. and Mexican
governments. (I focus here on Mexico, but the model
could take root in any migrant-sending country.)
Before leaving Mexico, each migrant would take
a “workplace standards oath,” administered at the
U. S. consulate, committing to report employers who
violate U.S. labor laws. So long as they upheld the
oath, TLC visa holders would be able to work for
by tábata peregrín
pain receives more
immigrants than any
other country in Europe.
Forty percent of those immigrants
come from Latin America. Between
2000 and 2006, the number of
foreign residents soared from
0.52 percent of the population to
9. 39 percent, according to Spain’s
National Statistics Institute (INE).
The reason: the Spanish economy has been creating more jobs
than Spaniards themselves can fill.
Spain’s economy has been growing
annually by 3 percent over the past
Immigration has not only
reflected that growth; it has
helped fuel it. A 2008 study by
Spain’s Fundación de Estudios de
Economía Aplicada (FEDEA) found
that immigrants generate two billion euros annually—more than the
combined annual state expenditure
on health, education and welfare.
Nevertheless, it has also created
strains. In a study conducted this
year by the country’s Fundación de
las Cajas de Ahorros, one-third of
Spaniards opposed immigration.
According to the study, distrust of
foreigners has tripled since 2000.
Anti-immigrant sentiment has
been fueled by the growing belief
among Spanish workers that
immigrants are taking work from
locals. The government of Prime
Minister José Luis Rodríguez
Zapatero provided ammunition to
critics by extending the country’s
social services to immigrants.
Foreigners with at least four years
Economists predict that lower
growth rates will inevitably
affect Spain’s approach towards
of residency, for example, can
qualify for the monthly rental
subsidy of 210 euros. But the most
controversial policy may be the
so-called “Baby Check” program
announced in July 2007, which
entitles every child born in Spain
to a state grant of 2,500 euros.
Foreign parents can qualify if they
can prove legal residence of at
least two years,
The measure was designed to
kickstart the flagging birthrates
of a country where the solvency of
pension funds has been put at risk
by an aging population. Defenders
of the program argue that it
merely recognizes the economic
contribution made by immigrants.
Critics, however, question
whether Spain can continue to
afford such economic largesse.
In just eight months of the “Baby
Check” program, the government
has spent over 700 million euros,
according to Ministry of Economy
and Finance figures.
The argument may turn out
to be academic. As the Spanish
“miracle” slows down, economists
predict that lower growth rates will
inevitably affect Spain’s open-door
approach toward immigrants. “This
year the unemployment rate has
reached 9 percent (and) the first
ones to suffer are the immigrants,”
says Oscar Martínez, a sociologist
and economist at the Universidad
Complutense in Madrid, who adds
that immigrants are currently
experiencing twice the jobless rate
of native-born Spaniards.