Commentary immigration law: waited too long for too little

The Skilled Workers Immigration Act is neither pragmatic nor a good solution – because the coalition is not exactly making it easy for people.

Hadeiatou from the African country of Guinea learns welding at the Bremen vocational school Photo: dpa

The cabinet has finally passed a skilled labor immigration law. It is a step that has been a long time coming, and no political camp can actually deny its objective necessity. On the left of center, people complain that the lack of an immigration law makes life more difficult for migrants who have arrived socially and professionally. Driven by economic interests, entrepreneurs – including conservative ones – are also calling for a pragmatic approach to qualified migrants who are either already here or are still to come.

So now some get their humanism, others their skilled workers – what’s the problem? In that the Skilled Worker Immigration Act and the law on toleration for training and employment are not about a pragmatic, good solution for everyone. Instead, it is about ideology and party profile – especially for the CDU/CSU.

Now that conservatives believe the Merkel era is over after the election of the new CDU presidency, it would be fatal for them to send too liberal a signal on migration. The law must come, the powerful economic constraints are pushing. However, restrictions are being imposed wherever possible – even against the government’s own economic interests.

On the one hand, the coalition therefore agreed on a law that allows qualified workers from non-EU countries to come to Germany without an employment contract in order to look for a job. But it does not make it easy for people: They must speak sufficient German, secure their own livelihood and have only six months to find work.

Anything but generous

However, the conservative coalition partner does not want to appear too liberal, especially when it comes to those who are already here, working or undergoing training. Because it senses the danger that rejected asylum seekers could cheat their way into a right to stay. Or at least that potential voters might think that.

That’s why the law on toleration for training and employment is just as presuppositional: Among other things, tolerated persons must have been working in Germany for at least 18 months. Only then do they receive an employment toleration of 30 months. A permanent residence title could then follow. That is anything but generous. The fact that the cabinet is outsourcing the issue of tolerated persons to a separate law shows the symbolic weight it carries.

So there is no paradigm shift in immigration policy. Just a deeply insecure conservative party that is struggling to cut corners. That, too, is a legacy of Merkel.

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