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Spain's largest parties want to give illegal immigrants residence permits

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen described the new EU measures, with tougher border controls and tougher requirements for residence permits, as “historic” when they were hammered out in the European Parliament this week. Both the Socialist Workers' Party and the Popular Party in Strasbourg voted in favor of tougher regulations – while in Spain, they are preparing measures with opposite signals.

The background is domestic politics. 700,000 Spaniards signed a petition calling on Congress to grant residency to anyone living permanently in the country without documents.

Supporters celebrate the petition calling for

Photo: Francesco Militello Mirto/Shutterstock

PSOE and PP This week they decided to consider the proposal in committee – suggesting they have agreed to move it forward. The Socialist Workers' Party governs in Madrid with the support of four pro-immigration left-wing parties. They, especially the far-left parties Podemos and Somar, are angry at the SWP's support for EU austerity and are demanding liberalization at home as compensation.

What is even more surprising is that the right-wing People's Party, which has long criticized immigration policy, is following suit. The People's Party wants to distance itself from the right-wing, populist, anti-immigration Vox party before the election, which is drawing to a close – in order to appeal to middle-class voters.

Within the Communist Party there are also immigration-friendly Catholic aid organizations, such as Caritas and Manos Unidas, both of which are very active.

Arrived last year 57,000 illegal immigrants to Spain, almost all by sea from Moroccan and West African ports. Of the nearly six million people living in the country without Spanish citizenship, 90% have a residence permit. Most of them come from Morocco, Great Britain, Romania, China, Venezuela, Italy and Colombia.

Two similar pieces of legislation have occurred in modern times; In 1996 by Prime Minister of the People's Party José María Aznar and in 2004 by José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero of the Socialist Workers' Party. Both times, approximately 600,000 unregistered people gained official status.

The arguments in favor of the legislation are that those who cannot find regular jobs are working illegally or are attracted to crime. The most important argument against the reform is that it encourages people smuggling, primarily to the Canary Islands, where most boat refugees disembark.

If the major parties legislate the undocumented, the right-wing populist Vox party will be wringing its hands. It is then possible that the party, which collapsed in last year's elections, will present itself in the next elections as the only truly anti-immigration party.

Read more:

The European Parliament voted on the historic migration pact

Nathan Shachar: Amnesty law gives the Spanish government a break – but scandals could put a damper on things

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