•A party that advocates a ban on Muslim immigrants is set to join the coalition government in the Netherlands.
Still, Europe is not uniformly erecting walls to keep foreigners out. Germany, for instance, is tinkering with its laws so it can attract more immigrants to fill labor gaps in industry, health care, and high-tech sectors. British government ministers are openly divided over the new immigration cap, with some warning that labor migration quotas will only slow economic recovery.
Despite recession, the Netherlands, Italy, and Spain have all implemented amnesties for categories of undocumented immigrants and asylum-seekers, with some 300,000 people getting legal status in Italy and some 100,000 in Spain last year. Even France, which has set deportation targets, annually approves petitions for work permits for some 25,000 illegal migrant workers.
While anti-immigrant sentiment ebbs and flows, it hasn't necessarily evolved into a Europewide political issue as vociferous as the current immigration debate in America.
"The first reason is that the actual number of undocumented workers relative to the population is much higher [in the US] than in most European countries," says Jonathan Chaloff, an analyst with the international migration division of the Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). "The second reason is that the economic downturn has made it more of an issue. In European countries with large undocumented populations, there is a relatively high employment rate among the undocumented, and no perception of competition with natives, while in the US there's a perception that the undocumented are not employed or are unfairly competing."