Spain is going to grant citizenship to 1.5 million grandchildren of civil war exiles. The news came as a surprise. Although I myself am an Argentine immigrant, am in favor of immigration, supported the PSOE in their amnesty and am sure that things would be going much worse for Spain had it not welcomed 4 million immigrants since the year 2000, I believe that this measure is a mistake by the government. There are two main reasons for this: one is the criterion for selection, as only one out of four grandparents needs to have been exiled; the other is the idea itself: welcoming many new Spaniards during a period in which things in general are going pretty poorly for Spain, and it is simply not capable of receiving many new immigrants without jobs and a nationality. Moreover this measure stands in great contrast with other government measures in which residents in Spain are given rewards to return to their country.
Potentially allowing 20% more immigrants to enter the country, chosen because of who their grandparents were, abandons the concept of meritocracy in practice until now, which says that an immigrant has to have a work contract. With respect to immigrants, Spain needs to have a selection criterion that has more to do with who they are today and not so much who one of their deceased grandparents was. There is no doubt in my mind that it was an enormous injustice that so many Spaniards had to emigrate more than 70 years ago. What is not very clear to me is how there is a stronger connection between that – in most cases – already deceased person that had to leave and his or her grandchild than there is, for example, between a current Argentinean resident of Spain and his own family, whom he cannot bring, even though he already lives in Spain and contributes to the country. I understand the concept of citizenship passing from parents to their children, especially because it is about the reunification of family, but passing it from a grandparent to all of his or her offspring is an idea that – although beautiful – ends up producing an enormous pool of possible candidates without job offers whom, at this time, Spain simply cannot take in.
What’s more, if the idea is to link immigration with family, then to me the case of the immigrant with a deceased grandparent who was exiled is much less convincing than the case of a husband or wife who wants to have citizenship and bring his or her living spouse or children now. It doesn’t make sense to think about an injustice that occurred 75 years ago and forget about a current one. In other countries, immigration is seen as a quota issue, and the best way to fill said quota is sought. While I do believe that a tremendous injustice was committed by Franco 3 generations ago I believe that a new one is being made today if nationality is not granted first to those foreigners now working in Spain who are not allowed to bring their loved ones.
Follow Martin Varsavsky on Twitter: twitter.com/martinvars