Is Getting Race Right All About the Benjamins?

| Fri Oct. 17, 2008 6:36 PM EDT

Ireland is welcoming immigrants of all hues and thriving. From Slate:

After centuries of emigration—particularly to Great Britain and the United States—Ireland has attracted thousands of newcomers. While the economy has cooled, foreigners have not, for the most part, headed for the exits: Approximately 10 percent of the country's 4.1 million residents are now foreign-born. The diversity of this group becomes apparent as you stroll around Dublin: Filipino restaurants stand next to Polish grocery stores and African hair-braiding salons. ...

...the government has encouraged businesses to fill low-skill jobs with citizens from the new EU member states. According to 2006 statistics (the most recent available), about 70,000 Poles have successfully landed work in Ireland. The third-largest group of foreigners—after British and Polish—are Africans. There are about 50,000 Africans in Ireland, and many of them arrived as asylum seekers.

One Nigerian immigrant is mayor of an Irish town, and he isn't even a citizen. Imagine that happening here. Unfortunately, immigration isn't going so well in Spain. Also from Slate:

It wasn't so long ago that Spain was considered one of the most immigrant-friendly countries in the world. In 2005, the nation's European neighbors looked askance when the Spanish government instituted an amnesty program that granted residency papers to more than 500,000 foreigners. It was a potential first step to acquiring Spanish citizenship and, by extension, an EU passport. That wasn't the only chance non-EU citizens had to settle in the country through legal channels: The government has also allowed businesses to recruit for so-called hard-to-fill positions—ranging from medical technician to domestic worker—by hiring abroad. Last year, more than 200,000 foreigners arrived in Spain this way. Upon arrival, newcomers both legal and illegal could access Spain's health care system at no cost by registering at the local town hall.

Immigrants can still access the state safety net, but now that the economy has cooled, opportunities to settle in the country legally are becoming scarce. ...

Perhaps it was inevitable that the Spanish government would become more apprehensive about its newfound multiculturalism. The country has undergone a bewildering transformation: In the past decade, the immigrant population spiked to nearly 4 million, or 10 percent of the country's total population of 40 million. That is almost as high as the proportion of foreign-born residents in the United States, where immigrants comprise 12.5 percent of the population. Unlike the United States or European countries like Austria and Germany, Spain has little experience of absorbing outsiders. Traditionally, people left the country rather than settled there.

As usual, it's all about the benjamins; when the economy is strong and unpleasant work needs to be done, immigrants are wooed. When the economy tanks.....

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