Divisions on Immigration in the West has never been as on display as it has in these recent years.
On one side, the U.S. president blamed Democrats last week for his own administration’s decision to separate immigrant families. He then proved his previous claim wrong, that he could do nothing to intervene, when he signed an executive order to end separations.
On the other hand, German Chancellor Angela Merkel was at a Lebanese school in Beirut last Friday, spending time with the Syrian refugee children who attended class. Even with Merkel’s chancellorship on the brink of collapse due to her liberal stance on the issue, she still went to the school where the media photographed her interaction with the children.
The two world leaders have never agreed on immigration issues and won’t be likely to anytime soon. However, the gap in the leaders’ stances on the matter became more visible when photos of the situations became public. Over in the U.S. photos showed children literally in cages on the U.S. border. Meanwhile, Merkel took time to visit refugee children at school.
Not All Is As It Seems When It Comes To Immigration and World Leaders
In 2015, the height of Europe’s refugee influx, Merkel adopted a liberal immigration stance allowing over 1 million to enter the country. There have been tangible changes due to her decision and could be a deciding factor in whether or not Chancellor Merkel stays in power.
Chancellor Merkel is known for rarely showing her emotions in the decade she’s served in office. Now, there are photos circulating the internet showing her playing with children in Beirut during a political crisis. She’s making faces, sticking her tongue out in a teasing manner, and even juggling balls.
Merkel’s political opponents used the selfies she took with refugees on an attack towards her. So with the inner fightings of Germany and the U.S. involved in an immigration fight, Merkel’s actions surprised many. Her defiance in meeting with the refugee children showed the strength that she defends her political legacy.
It’s important to remember too that Merkel’s legacy isn’t as liberal as many believe. Earlier, she had pushed for the deportation of Afghans who didn’t have their applications approved. Despite common belief, the chancellor didn’t actively open the borders to Germany to let the 1 million refugees in. In fact, the borderless Schengen area was never closed.
However, unlike other conservative, European politicians, Merkel has made attempts to bridge the divide between a humane response to the immigration problem and the skepticism of the humane response from her right-wing base.
Both Merkel and Trump rely on conservative voters despite their differences in their approach to immigration. Even though it has made her look weak to some political allies, Merkel adopted a welcoming stance. Trump on the other hand chose to look strong instead of creating a consistent policy.