Manuel Peón and Stephen Webster, American Renaissance, September 2005
Mass immigration is something new for Spain. Throughout most of its history, Spain, like Ireland, was a nation of emigrants, not immigrants, and during the 20th century, more than six million Spaniards left their homeland. Until the 1950s, most sought new lives in Central and South America. During the latter half of the century Spaniards preferred to emigrate to northern Europe.
The migration flow reversed in the 1970s, and immigrants started coming in earnest after Spain entered the European Union (EU) in 1986. As the economy grew, so did the flow—both legal and illegal—from a trickle in the early 1990s to a flood by the end of the decade. Since 2000, the immigrant population has quadrupled to 3.7 million, and is now 8.4 percent of the population of 40 million. The total number of foreign-born residents increases by an average of ten percent every year, and the number of non-white immigrants increased by an average of over 200 percent annually from 1992 to 2000.
Although some immigrants come from within the EU and from Eastern Europe, most—and nearly all illegals—come from North Africa and Latin America. According to some experts, if the present rate of non-European immigration continues, Spaniards will become a minority in their homeland by the end of this century.
As in many countries, the initial response to Third World immigration has been foolishly generous; now Spaniards show signs of waking up to what is really at stake.
Like most countries that have historically been sources of emigration, Spain practiced jus sanguinis (right of blood) citizenship, meaning only those born in Spain to Spanish citizens were citizens. In 1990 and 1995, Spain amended its Civil Code to accommodate immigrants from former colonies, and now practices jus sanguinis and jus solis (right of soil—those born in the territory are citizens). Spain now grants jus sanguinis citizenship to anyone born in Spain to at least one Spanish parent or born abroad to at least one Spanish-born parent, regardless of present nationality. The new jus solis provisions confer citizenship on children born in Spain to parents who are stateless or whose nationalities are not known. Children of foreigners born in Spain are citizens so long as one parent was born in Spain. Although there are exceptions, Spanish-born children of illegal aliens are counted as citizens, and it is considered rude to inquire too closely about the status of foreign-looking young people.
As the former colonizer, Spain has long-standing ties to Latin America. Argentines and Chileans are mostly of Spanish origin, and Spanish blood in varying quantities runs through the veins of people across the continent. Many of today’s Latin Americans had parents, grandparents or great-grandparents who were Spanish—3.5 million Spaniards emigrated to Latin America between 1850 and 1950—and Spain has dual citizenship agreements with Bolivia, Chile, Ecuador, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Paraguay, Peru, the Dominican Republic, Argentina, and Honduras.
Under the jus sanguinis principle, Latin Americans who have at least one Spanish parent can qualify immediately for Spanish citizenship. Those with a Spanish grandparent can apply for citizenship after one year of legal residency. People from any former colony—even if they have no blood ties to Spain—can apply for citizenship after two years of legal residency. The same rule applies to Portuguese, Filipinos, and Sephardic Jews descended from the Jews expelled in 1492. Applications for citizenship can be refused on a number of grounds, most commonly because of a criminal record. People coming to work in Spain must have a work permit, but most Latins, particularly the non-whites, ignore the law.
Although Spain was relatively accommodating to Latin American immigrants, until recently most wanted to get into the US. That began to change in the early 1990s, when Latin America suffered a sharp economic downturn and the US was tightening immigration enforcement. Ecuadorians were particularly hard hit. So many were trying to get out of their country that the US embassy in Quito stopped issuing tourist visas, afraid that anyone who made it to the United States would stay. Many Ecuadorians thought it would be easier to get into the US from a European country, and chose Spain because they spoke the language and because Spain did not require a tourist visa. Spain was also in an economic boom and needed low-wage labor.
“Back in those years, the flights to Spain from Ecuador were coming in full,” says Vladimir Paspuel, president of the Ruminahi Hispanic American Association, an organization of Ecuadorian expatriates. (Ruminahi was an Ecuadorian chieftain notorious for killing Spaniards. It is an odd name for a group established in Spain—a little like an association of Germans living in Israel calling itself The Hitler Club.) “They would ask only that you show a couple thousand dollars at the airport.”
Soon planes from Colombia, Peru, Bolivia and Argentina were also full. At first the immigrants were from the white, professional classes who were able to get work permits, but as word spread that low-skill jobs were plentiful and enforcement was lax, the mestizo working poor soon followed. By the late 1990s they were coming en masse, from all over Latin America.
Many Spanish businessmen saw illegal Latin Americans as a source of cheap, compliant labor, especially in agriculture and construction. The urban middle class, eager for the trappings of status, hired them as maids, nannies, and gardeners. Today, Ecuadorians may actually be the largest immigrant group in Spain, outnumbering even Moroccans, illegals included. Their numbers officially rose from 2,000 in 1995 to 375,000 in 2003, but since many are illegal, the actual number could be much higher. In addition, there are at least 250,000 Colombians and tens of thousands of other Latin Americans living in Spain.
The government was aware of the growing illegal population but took no action, believing immigrants were doing work “Spaniards will not do.” Instead, at the urging of the Socialists and the business community, it offered them periodic amnesties (seven since 1985). In the face of this official indifference to their presence, illegals began bringing in their extended families. There has been so much chain migration that for each Ecuadorian who works there may be as many as three who live off the state, thanks to Spain’s generous welfare.
In Spain, “undocumented migrants,” as they are euphemistically called, can rent apartments, and the elderly can live in public housing. Trade unions welcome them as members. Spain provides free universal medical care to all, and in a law passed in 2001, extended coverage to pregnant illegals and their minor children, and all other “undocumented migrants” who register at the local town hall. There are even special medical centers for illegals who do not register.
Latin Americans now overwhelm the public health facilities in Madrid and Barcelona, seeking even the most expensive treatments. They are mostly Amerindians, who may have little or no European blood. Many have never seen a doctor before, and their susceptibility to disease is, in the judgment of many Spanish doctors, the highest for any group in the country. The Madrid regional government reports that Latin Americans, on average, absorb 45 percent more in medical costs than Spaniards. They crowd the hospital waiting rooms in Madrid, along with a smattering of old, white Spaniards. It is a chilling glimpse at the future of Spain.
It is the same at many public schools in Spanish cities. All school-age children must attend school, and administrators are not allowed to ask about immigration status. Thus, in schools in Madrid’s working class neighborhoods, one has to look hard to find a European child, and even harder to find a native Spanish child. Amerindians are the majority in most of these schools, especially in the lower grades.
Gangs and Crime
Mass immigration from Latin America has also brought crime. Madrid has gone from being one of the safest European cities to one of the most dangerous. Before the massive influx of immigrants, the most serious problem Spanish police faced was Basque separatist terrorism. They were unprepared for the American-style urban street gangs that arrived with the Latin Americans.
Spain had produced its own brand of urban thug before, but these were relatively harmless juvenile delinquents like skinheads, squatters and “anarchist” followers of Techno music. The Latin American gangs are violent crime organizations, some with names Americans will recognize: Latin Kings, Netas and Rancutas. Gangs got their start in urban Spanish schools, with racial confrontations between Latin Americans and Spaniards. In one instance in Barcelona, five members of the Latin Kings stabbed a 17-year-old Spaniard to death in a case of mistaken identity. Police estimate there are as many as 400 hard-core Latin King gang members in Barcelona, where hardly a weekend passes without a gang-related murder. There are gang murders now in other major Spanish cities, and almost all gang members are Latin American.
In Madrid, for example, gang leaders are Ecuadorian. The Latin Kings are at war with another Latin American street gang, the Netas, and they square off against each other in city parks. On weekends they turn the parks into urban ghettoes and harass native Spaniards. Gang members hate whites; they prey on Spanish students in the schools, stealing their money, cell phones and even their clothes. In several schools, Spanish girls have had their faces cut by gang members while trying to defend themselves from rape. The police can do little in the face of the gangs, because most members are minors and foreign, and Spanish laws are among the most lenient in Europe. Many native Spaniards now send their children to private schools, which leaves the public schools even more firmly in the hands of gangs.
Latin American immigration has also meant an increase in drug trafficking, with Colombians heavily involved, as in the United States. The corruption inherent in the drug trade is beginning to corrupt the state, as several native-born judges and policemen have been arrested for taking bribes and otherwise aiding drug pushers.
Foreigners account for an astonishing 80 percent of arrests, and the prison population is overwhelmingly immigrant. The majority, however, are not Latinos but Muslims.
As unpleasant as the mixed-race Latin Americans are, they at least speak the language and are somewhat culturally if not racially compatible. In some ways, they are the children of Spain. Muslims, who come mainly from Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia, are the children of Spain’s conquerors, the Moors (see article on p. 6).
This point was reinforced on March 11, 2004, when a series of bombs exploded on commuter trains in Madrid, killing 191 and injuring 1,460, in the worst terrorist attack in modern Spanish history. The conservative government of then-prime minister José Maria Aznar tried to pin the bombings on the Basque ETA, but most Spaniards were convinced the attacks were retaliation for supporting the war in Iraq. The bombings occurred on the eve of Spanish national elections, which Mr. Aznar’s Popular Party was expected to win. Instead, the voters elected his Socialist opponent, José Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, who promised to withdraw from Iraq immediately.
Spanish police have arrested several Muslims in connection with the Madrid bombings, mostly Moroccans. Although no links to Al-Qaeda have been officially established, Osama bin Laden himself has said the attack was part of the “liberation” and re-occupation of al-Andalus, the Arabic name for Spain. Regardless of who was responsible, the attack could not have happened but for Spain’s large Muslim community, into which the terrorists blended easily.
Muslim immigrants are recent arrivals, just like the Latin Americans. For obvious historical reasons, Spain has not been a welcoming place for Muslims, although in 1967 the government passed a religious freedom law that provided recognition to Islam. The big change came during the economic boom in the 1990s when Muslims, mainly Moroccans, began entering illegally to work. It is only a nine-mile boat ride across the Straits of Gibraltar, and hundreds of thousands have risked the deadly currents for a chance to live in Europe. Many have died in the process, and sad stories lamenting the plight of these “unfortunates” are a staple of the leftist media.
The Spanish government has been schizophrenic about illegal Muslim immigrants, at times cracking down, but usually accommodating them with amnesties and social benefits. As a result, the population has steadily increased, and currently numbers around 600,000. Most are Moroccans, who have seen their numbers rise from just 70,000 in 1995 to approximately 350,000. There could well be several hundred thousand more living in Spain illegally. There is some question as to whether there are more Moroccans than Ecuadorians. Some authorities say yes, others say no. Most Spaniards believe there are far too many of both.
Muslim immigrants, like their Latin American counterparts, have also contributed to the increase in the Spanish crime rate, especially crimes against women. Muslims and Latin American immigrants commit 40 percent of domestic violence crimes. Just what this means in terms of per capita offense rates is impossible to know, because the official population figures (Muslims are 1.75 percent of the population, Latin Americans are 1.94 percent) do not account for illegals. Whatever the real population figures, immigrants are vastly overrepresented in virtually all crimes.
For Latin Americans, disdain for women is part of “machismo,” and for Muslims, it is sanctioned by religion. In 1997, a Spanish imam published a book called Women in Islam, in which he argued Muslim men could beat their wives as follows: “The beatings must be administered to specific parts of the body, such as the feet and hands, using a stick that is not too long, so as not to leave scars and bruises.”
The Aznar government charged the cleric with inciting hatred against women, but the Socialists let him go. As in other Western countries, Muslims in Spain have a tendency to rape white women. Recently in the southwestern town of Jumilla, native Spaniards expressed their outrage at the authorities’ seeming unwillingness to prevent such rapes. They stormed the city hall and pelted it with eggs and tomatoes, angry that government at all levels had failed to protect them from immigrant crime. They were outraged that they had welcomed immigrants and supported them with tax money only to be paid back with, as they put it, “crime, violence and fear.” Muslims now make up a staggering 70 percent of the inmates in Spanish prisons. In 1990 there were just 1,000 Muslim inmates.
Muslims do not get along well with Spain’s other major immigrant group. In Catalonia, which has large numbers of both Muslims and Latin Americans, violence between the two groups is common, a pattern found in many cities where both groups have settled. Violence is likely to increase, along with the number of immigrants.
Despite polls showing that a third of Spaniards want immigration sharply reduced or completely eliminated and that most consider immigration the second-most serious problem facing Spain—right behind terrorism—governments of both the right and the left have favored increasing immigration, most recently through the amnesty announced late last year and completed in May.
Spain first amnestied illegals when it passed its first-ever immigration law in 1985 in preparation for joining the EU. There were only a few illegals at that time, mostly temporary guest workers who had overstayed their visas from the 1960s and 70s. The law provided for sanctions against employers of illegal aliens, but as in the United States, they were rarely enforced. As illegal immigration increased during the 1990s, there were more amnesties: in 1991, 1994 (which also provided for family reunification), 1996, 2000, 2001, with the most recent just this year.
The current amnesty, which closed on May 8, was the largest to date, giving some 700,000 illegal immigrants—mostly Muslims—legal residency. Many illegals came to Spain from other EU countries to participate in the amnesty, greatly increasing the number. The illegals were supposed to prove they had been living and working in Spain for at least six months, but many managed to get forged records. Once families are included, this latest amnesty is expected to make more than a million people legal Spanish residents.
The current Socialist government rationalizes the amnesty by saying that it “just makes sense” to provide legal status to people who have been living and working in Spain for years. “These people were working in our shadow economy,” says Secretary of State for Immigration Marta Rodriguez-Tarducy. “They were using our social services but not paying any taxes, so we gave them the chance over a limited period to get their papers in order without being penalized.”
The government hopes the amnesty will provide billions in revenue, oblivious as always to the demographic and cultural impact of Third Worlders. The conservative Popular Party, now in opposition, objected to the amnesty, claiming it would just encourage more illegals and cause social tension, but it should talk; most of the earlier amnesties happened on its watch. Many of Spain’s EU partners opposed the amnesty, fearing that once the illegals got Spanish papers, they would pour into their countries. Government officials defended the amnesty as the only humane way to deal with the immigration crisis and a looming pension deficit. The labor minister claims this will be the last amnesty ever, and that the government will start cracking down hard on people who hire illegals—Spaniards have heard this many times since 1985.
Amnesty is not the only sop to Spain’s Muslim immigrants. The new Socialist government of José Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, elected in the wake of the Madrid bombings, has been especially accommodating. Mr. Zapatero shelved plans for a French-style ban on the hijab in public schools, despite polls showing 78 percent of the public supported it. He also authorized instruction in Islamic subjects in Spanish public schools that have a large number of Muslim students.
Perhaps his most controversial move has been to provide state funding to mosques. The Zapatero administration claims government funding will eliminate the influence of fundamentalist Muslims who are currently providing financing, but the move should be seen in the context of the Socialists’ Marxist-inspired hostility towards Spanish Catholicism. (Spain, along with Ireland and Poland, is one of the traditional Catholic bastions of Europe; 94 percent of Spaniards are at least nominally Catholic.) Mr. Zapatero says he wants to treat all religions equally in Spain, yet while he plans to fund mosques, he has cut funding to Catholic schools and religious centers. Teaching Islam, he says without any apparent irony, is part of his government’s policy of “secularism.”
Mosques are popping up all over Spain, even without government assistance. In 1993, the Muslim prayer-call was heard for the first time in 500 years in Granada, with the opening of the Grand Mosque. Another Grand Mosque is planned for Seville. Recently, the wife of a former high-ranking government official in Catalonia, home to 100,000 Muslims, set off protests from Muslims when she said she feared one day all the churches would be turned into mosques.
The immigration crisis is exacerbated by demographic trends. Spain has one of the lowest native fertility rates in the Western world: just 1.15 lifetime births per woman. Experts say the country will lose a quarter of its native population by mid-century. The government justifies immigration for this reason, choosing to believe non-white immigrants will pay high taxes to support a declining population of elderly white people they despise. The low birthrate, coupled with the high rate of immigration and immigrant fertility have lead some experts to conclude native Spaniards could become a minority in Spain within 50 years or so, something inconceivable just a decade and a half ago.
As grim as the situation sounds, Spaniards are not about to surrender the country their ancestors defended for centuries against Muslim rule. Many are beginning to understand that non-white immigrants who won’t assimilate are a potentially mortal threat to the Spanish identity. The incident in Jumilla where the townspeople stormed the city hall is an example of Spaniards fighting back. This spring, when Dominicans in Madrid killed a young Spaniard only because he was white and was in “their” territory, whites protested for two days, and even set fire to shops owned by Latin Americans. In Seville, there was a large demonstration to protest the Grand Mosque. In Madrid, there have been several big demonstrations by native Spaniards against the Ecuadorian gangs who have turned city parks into no-go zones for whites.
The protests in Madrid may also have been fueled by a recent letter to the editor of a local newspaper in which an Ecuadorian wrote that once his kind were in the majority they would pull down all the statues of Cortes and Pizarro, the conquerors of America, in retaliation for the “genocide” of his ancestors. The demonstrators might also have recalled the aftermath of a 2003 soccer match between the Spanish and Ecuadorian national teams in Madrid. Ecuador’s supporters shouted angry anti-Spanish slogans and rioted after their team lost, causing a great deal of damage in the area around the stadium.
Perhaps most encouraging of all, a small neo-Frankist nationalist party, Plataforma per Catalunya, recently won municipal seats in left-leaning Catalonia. Reawakened Spaniards will, as other Europeans have begun to do, punish the elites who have betrayed them and vote them out. The spirit of Spanish nationalism may have been slumbering, but there are signs it is beginning to stir.