The fallout from Fortress Europe—the ever-emerging and expanding efforts of European nations to expel or bar immigrants and foreigners—is reaching fever-pitch. France is kicking out the Roma. Sweden has seated twenty representatives in Parliament from a nationalist, anti-immigrant party. Germany is stirring over a blatantly anti-immigrant book by a (now former) Bundesbank Board member. Long-simmering anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim sentiment in Italy, Switzerland, and Great Britain continues to fan the flames of racism and xenophobia as hatred spreads across the continent.
Fortress America follows fast on the heels of its Euro-kin. Yet, the anti-immigrant crowd never seems to be quite satisfied with its SB1070s or with growing, spreading anti-immigrant sentiment: witness the Federation for American Immigration Reform’s (FAIR) slam on its own toadies in the Republican Party for not putting enough emphasis on “comprehensive enforcement” in its recently crafted “Pledge to America.” In this crowd there seems to be growing unease that, of all things, the economic crisis may be overriding concerns about immigration.
That so many Europeans and Euro-Americans encourage, support, and advance fortress politics and fortress policies reflects the persistence—indeed the increase—of white nationalism in nations spanning the breadth of the Northern Hemisphere. Nationalism—and white nationalism, in particular—is a toxic, deadly malignancy that can readily consume the body politic. That France is actually expelling Roma peoples from within its borders is a grim harbinger of things perhaps to come. In the 1930s the U.S. itself “repatriated” (expelled) tens of thousands of Mexicans and Mexican-Americans; the notion that “it can’t happen here” is both bygone and chillingly possible. It did happen here. It can happen here.
The pushback against Fortress Europe and Fortress America must be rooted in organized action taken by peoples in every neighborhood, village, town, city, and suburb. Neither silence nor inaction is an option if the construction of the Fortresses is to be slowed and stopped. This is not a matter of “open borders,” but of open minds—the commitment of diverse peoples to live well together in an increasingly complex and complicated global community where the flow of humankind is as equally possible as the flow of capital. The Fortress walls must come down.