Let illegals work! say small businesses

Unizo, the Flemish small business association, has called for workers across the European Union to be given access to jobs in the Belgian labor market. Citing a shortage of workers, the association also states that the number of job vacancies in Flanders is twice the number of job seekers. Unizo favors giving illegal immigrants who have integrated into Belgian society the right to legally work in the country.

Muslim Union attacks German Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution

The German Muslim Council (Islamrat) has criticized the surveillance of the Muslim organization Milli Gurus by the German Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution. Ali Kizilkaya, chairman of the council, accuses the Federal Office to construct a concept of the Muslim enemy in order to maintain jobs.

Belgians agree on one issue: foreigners

Political and governmental conflict still divides Dutch-speaking Flanders and French-speaking Wallonia, but the two communities put aside their differences to approve a tough new approach concerning asylum and economic migration. Under the agreement, migrants from outside the EU will only be able to fill jobs if there are not enough EU candidates. Further toughening of income, language, and time requirements were put forth in the agreement.

Jury selected for Padilla trial

An ethnically diverse panel will hear the case against the alleged Al Qaeda operative and two co-defendants. A jury of five blacks, four whites and three Latinos with a broad array of jobs, political leanings and assumptions about terrorism will hear the government’s case against alleged Al Queda operative Jose Padilla. The panel was selected Tuesday after weeks of contentious wrangling among the 15 attorneys representing the government, Padilla and his two co-defendants, with the government and defense teams accusing each other of racial and religious profiling in picking jurors. Padilla, a 36-year-old former Chicago gang member, and two Arabs are accused of conspiring to kill foreign enemies of Islam. The 12 jurors and six alternates will begin hearing testimony Monday in a case expected to last four months and draw witnesses from the intelligence and security communities, including a covert CIA operative planning to testify in disguise. U.S. District Judge Marcia Cooke excused dozens of potential jurors during the protracted search for a fair and balanced panel because of the hardships they would endure if separated from their jobs or family obligations each workday through the end of August. Anyone with a scheduled vacation, an ill relative needing attention or a child-care conflict was dismissed, although Cooke said she would not sequester the jury. By court order, the identities of the jurors cannot be made public. The seven men and five women expressed varying degrees of willingness to serve on the panel. A delivery dispatcher in her 30s said her boss was furious that she missed one day last week for the questioning. Another juror, a young insurance adjuster, told Cooke that he and his fiance were getting married next month but he had not planned a honeymoon in case he was needed on the jury. “That’s a young man who really takes his civic responsibilities seriously,” Cooke quipped after a day in which juror after juror asked to be excused for far less momentous occasions. Throughout Tuesday’s protracted use of peremptory challenges – 30 for the government and 36 for lawyers representing Padilla and co-defendants Adham Amin Hassoun and Kifah Wael Jayyousi – the attorneys repeatedly objected to each other’s dismissals. Defense attorneys noted the prosecution rejected seven black female jurors in a row, while the government team accused the defense of striking white and Latino men in what they saw as a “pattern of prejudice.” Jurors have a range of incomes, from an unemployed former busboy and a department store makeup artist to a software developer. There is religious diversity as well: Catholics, Baptists, a Seventh-day Adventist and one man who said he was intimately familiar with Jewish issues, although he did not make clear if that was his faith. The ethnicity of the panel was a topic of special contentiousness because Miami’s large Latino community includes exiles and emigres who fled repressive governments in Latin America and tend to cast an uncritical eye on the U.S. criminal justice system. But several of the jurors expressed doubts about the consistency and reliability of government and law enforcement work, disclosing run-ins with the law in individual questioning since jury selection began April 16. “There are a lot of people who are incarcerated who shouldn’t be there because they didn’t commit the crimes they are accused of,” said a young black female juror with several relatives on Miami-area police forces. A 40-ish man who is an Internet company chief financial officer told Cooke he thought the growth of Muslim clerical schools in the Middle East had contributed to a trend toward violence in Islam; but he added that “if you go back throughout history, they were one of the more temperate religions for hundreds of years.” “The war in Iraq is for profit and oil, not because of WMD,” a young Latino college student who works for a cable TV company said of the administration’s reason for invading Iraq. A black man of about 50 who manages a chain of service stations and has a nephew serving in Iraq conceded he might have an inclination to stereotype Muslims but assured Cooke he would seek to be fair. “We’re very pleased with the jury that was selected. I think it is a very diverse panel,” said Linda Moreno, a lawyer hired by Hassoun’s defense team to serve as a jury consultant. Moreno helped win a not guilty verdict from a Tampa jury two years ago in the terrorism case brought against Sami Al-Arian, a professor of computer engineering at the University of South Florida. One of the alternates on the panel was born in Egypt and understands some Arabic, but the only practicing Muslim brought before the lawyers Tuesday was dismissed by the prosecution. Assistant U.S. Atty. John C. Shipley told Cooke the government objected to her service because she had read publications from Yemen, Syria and Iran, which he called “renowned terrorist countries.”

When religious needs test company policy

Companies find that accommodating the faith needs of workers can be a delicate issue. The increasing visibility of religion in society, from a president who speaks openly about his faith to the proliferation of religious television programming, has consequences in the workplace. Increasing demands are placed on companies to create environments that are comfortable and welcoming for employees of all faiths — and of none. It is a matter of retaining employees and avoiding lawsuits. Complaints of religious discrimination to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission increased 20 percent, to 2,541, from 2001 to 2006. The figures of discrimination unreported may be much higher. Research by the Tanenbaum Center indicates that only 23 percent of employees who believe they are experiencing religious bias complain — but of those who feel that way, 45 percent are looking for new jobs. Employers are required by law to make substantial accommodations for their employees’ religious practices, as long as doing so does not create a major hardship for them. Company responses are diverse. Some companies serve as hosts of employee-run groups that hold discussions on different faiths and the like. Other companies take a more hands-off. Particular areas of tension include photo id’s for veiled women, prayer rooms, and religious symbols worn visibly over company uniforms. Clashes sometimes end in litigation; otherwise, companies work discretely with employees toward resolution.

L’islam, un recours pour les jeunes

Based on a long ethnographic study, L’Islam, un recours pour les jeunes focuses on the Islamic identities of French youth with North African or Turkish origins and working-class backgrounds. It asserts that young men and women’s religious paths are linked to experiences at school, within immigrant families and in disadvantaged neighbourhoods. Young men complain of being labelled negatively at school and being pushed toward low-skilled jobs instead of the professional vocations and lifestyles for which they yearn. They are often in conflict with teachers or with career advisers and engage Muslim symbols to protest against school judgments. The book also insists on the deep differences between Turkish and North-African populations with working-class backgrounds. The Turkish populations settled in France later than North-Africans and subsequently their settlement has been more fragile. They want to preserve traditions and customs from their country of origin, a phenomenon reinforced by the high concentrations of Turkish populations in urban areas. Turkish parents’ aspirations influence their goals for their children, especially in relation to school, professional life and marriage. The second part of Kapko’s book discussed the response of local authorities to Muslim religious claims. For over a decade, changes in Muslim demands of local policitians in relation to religious practice have been noticed. In comparison to demands made in the 1980s by immigrant fathers which focused on the need for prayer space, the 1990s have seen new demands such as the right to wear the headscarf in public spaces, the participation of local politicians to seminars held by religious leaders, and accommodation of religious arguments during negotiations with local political leaders. This investigation shows that council representatives often only select the aspects of the demands that seem to suit their objectives -keeping public order, social integration-and ignore the religious content of the demands. In other cases discussed, religious intonations are not ignored but rather exploited by the local government. Government officials, who fear confrontations between ethnic groups in disadvantaged areas, are tempted to turn religious militants into unofficial mediators between immigrant populations and public authorities.

Closing The Door To Immigrants

PARIS – The curtain falls on a bevy of near-naked dancers in feathered headdresses, and Adir Rafael Pires glides into action. As a set-changer at the Lido, the racy cabaret on Paris’ Champs-Elysees, Pires could not be farther from his desert birthplace: Cape Verde, a rocky, drought-stricken archipelago off West Africa’s coast. But the door that allowed Pires to make France his home may now be closing. France, like other European countries, is taking a harder look at the immigrants it lets in. The drive toward “selective” immigration is inspired by electoral politics, by fears that some immigrants are not integrating and may even be vectors for terrorism and militant Islam, and by widely shared concerns that immigrants overtax welfare systems and compete for scarce jobs. French Interior Minister and presidential hopeful Nicolas Sarkozy championed a bill that would make it more difficult for poor immigrants with little education and few skills to start a new life in France — long one of Europe’s most coveted destinations for immigrants. Pires, 24, reached the ultimate goal — acquiring French nationality — at a naturalization ceremony last month after spending more than half his life in France — much of it as an illegal immigrant. His mother, Vitalina, came to France in 1990 on a tourist visa, then stayed on as a live-in maid with a Parisian family. Pires visited her for summer vacation, and never returned to Cape Verde. Nearly 16 years later, mother and son became French thanks to a provision that allows foreigners to apply for citizenship after 10 years in the country — even if they were in France illegally. That is one of many immigrant-friendly provisions that would be scrapped?under Sarkozy’s immigration bill. Sarkozy, whose father immigrated to France from Hungary, argues that France should take a more active approach to immigration by hand-picking foreign workers. His arguments gained resonance after riots ripped through heavily immigrant French suburbs last fall. Sarkozy acknowledges that he wants to court voters away from the far right, which argued that the riots showed the perils of immigration. If passed, the law would form part of France’s multi-pronged offensive against clandestine immigration that also includes stepped-up border controls and deportations. Under Sarkozy, deportations have increased 72 percent over the past two years, with a record 20,000 illegal immigrants expelled in 2005. “France cannot be the only country in the world that refuses to adapt its immigration policy to its economic needs and its capacity to absorb new arrivals,” Sarkozy said recently. “We cannot continue to welcome people whom we have neither jobs nor housing to offer.” Pires spent most of his first year in France in a cramped apartment he shared with one of his mother’s friends. He did not attend school, but learned French from watching daytime television. He saw his mother on weekends. When another friend offered Vitalina an unheated attic room, mother and son moved in together. They shared the kitchen-less, 110-square-foot room for nearly seven years. Still, it was a step up from S_o Vicente, one of nine desert islands that make up the former Portuguese colony of Cape Verde and the one where Pires was born. The country’s economy relies largely on foreign aid and remittances from emigrants — which accounted for more than 20 percent of the gross domestic product in 2005. Pires does not send money back. There is no one left to send it to. After he and Vitalina left, Pires’ estranged father decamped, too. He now lives in Amsterdam, and has become a Dutch citizen. Most of Pires’ other relatives live in Europe or Brazil. Under Sarkozy’s draft bill, foreigners would have a harder time bringing their families to France. Immigrants would have to prove that their salaries alone — and not government subsidies — suffice to support their offspring. Pires says that if his mother had been subjected to such stringent requirements, she wouldn’t have made the cut. “Her salary was really low,” he said. Sponsored by his mother’s French friend, Pires enrolled in school. After a teacher told him he “wasn’t college material,” he opted to attend a technical high school where he specialized in operating theater sets. That led to the job at the Lido. “Here, I have the life of an average European — which I finally am,” he said. While it would target people like Pires and Vitalina, the immigration bill would favor a new breed of “highly qualified” workers who — with their higher degrees and sought-after skills — could just as easily move to New York or Toronto as Paris. “ `Highly qualified’ is just a code word for rich,” Pires said. He called a provision that would establish a renewable, three-year residence permit based on capacity and talent “a ploy to keep out the poor.” “Immigrant labor rebuilt this country after the war,” he said. “It’s not right to try to exclude us now.’