UK Prime Minister David Cameron's Immigration Speech

by Joseph McKeown

A week after President Obama announced his executive actions on immigration reform, UK Prime Minister David Cameron made his own immigration speech, saying: "Immigration benefits Britain, but it needs to be controlled."

Citing the dramatic increase in immigration since 2004, Mr. Cameron proposed to "reduce the current exceptionally high level of migration from within the EU into the UK" by returning net migration to 1990s levels, when "proper immigration controls meant immigration was in the tens of thousands, not hundreds of thousands."

To achieve this, he proposed to restrict time that EU-job seekers can legally stay in the UK to six months unless employment is found, change the alleged overly generous British welfare system so that those who claim benefits, tax credits, and child benefit must live and contribute for a minimum of four years, and increase residency requirements for social housing to four years.

Moreover, to decrease the level of undocumented and non-EU immigrants in the UK, Mr. Cameron pledged to continue to make "Britain a much harder place to exist as an illegal immigrant" by stopping undocumented immigrants from opening a bank account, obtaining a driver's license, and renting a home, as well as penalizing colleges who don't do enough to prevent foreign students from overstaying their visa.

Mr. Cameron made his self-admitted "radical" proposals after his failure to reduce immigration numbers, a promise he made before the 2010 election. 

Germany has warned that any attempt to stop the free movement of EU workers will not be tolerated, and Poland reacted with strong disapproval to Mr. Cameron's proposed four-year timeframe before foreign workers would be eligible for welfare benefits.

A Guardian editorial also criticized Mr. Cameron's use of the "stereotype of immigrant scroungers and its belief that unchecked immigration is one of the biggest problems facing Britain. This flies in the face of the evidence, which points to the fact that EU migrants put in more than they take out financially; that they use public services less than British citizens because many leave their families at home; and that the proportion of jobless EU migrants is tiny."

When it comes to the possibility of Britain leaving the EU if these issues cannot be resolved, Mr. Cameron said, "I rule nothing out." In the meantime as his immigration proposals are considered, Mr. Cameron wants to do more mentoring to help people with "'interview skills or CVs or just giving people a bit of confidence.'" Presumably, though, he does not mean immigrants since they have received "disproportionate numbers of jobs" in the UK.