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Immigration, Denmark, and the Rise of Racism
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10 Feb 2011 08:45 AM EST

- by Jorge Vargas, Editor-in-Chief; Image: Leader of the right-wing DPP party Ria Kjaersgaard says she founded the party because of her opposition to immigrants (Image source: BBC)

There is something rotten in the state of Denmark.

That rotten thing is disgusting, distasteful, and racist: Denmark's marriage laws.

The Danish government, apparently under the thumb of a tiny third party called the Danish People's Party and led by Pia Kjaersgaard, whose political knowledge comes from having worked as a social worker in a retirement home, has made marriage between Danish citizens and foreigners into something of a human rights violation.

The DPP, a populist party that runs on a simple platform of hatred for and fear of immigrants, influenced a marriage law that requires anyone wishing to marry a Danish citizen to post a bond of $11,600, while the foreigner needs pass a language and knowledge test.  Both the Danish citizen and the foreigner need to be at least 24 years of age and both need to demonstrate an attachment to Denmark greater than an attachment to any other country.

The Danish citizen must also own accomodations large enough so that both people can live comfortably. 

So, if you own a studio and want to marry the person you met in college, you're out of luck if that person is foreign. At least, until you buy a bigger place.

The attachment requirement looks into whether or not either spouse has children in another country, knowledge of the language, and a few other items.  It may be waived if the foreigner has lived legally in the country for 28 years.

The law makes marriage with a foreigner into a difficult ordeal.

The reason for this is that some people had admittedly abused the system.  There are couple that go to Denmark and get married only for residency, which is precisely what Denmark is trying to avoid.

However, that is the case in countries with greater economic opportunities than Denmark, such as the United Kingdom and United States, and they are not responding with such xenophobic policies.

This should be a moment of reflection for the people of Denmark.  Following a decade of increased xenophobia, Denmark is slowly finding that its international goodwill is decreasing that many nations which are today rising in positions of leadership will find it difficult to work with a country that has made itself so unpopular.

It is true that Denmark lives under the cushy protection of European Union.  However, that relationship will become difficult should the EU decide that Denmark's marriage laws violate EU policies. 

The Danish marriage laws are a violation, in spirit, of Article 16, sub-article one, of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, to which Denmark is a signatory.  That sub-article states that individuals of legal adult age should "without limitation due to race, nationality, or religion" have the right to marry and to found a family.

Denmark does have the right to dictate its own marriage policies.  Denmark has the right to dictate its own immigration laws.

Denmark has the right to live by bigotry and to answer to racism. 

Those are Denmark's rights.

The rest of the world has a right to see Denmark for what it really is and to decry the Danish government and the DPP for their constant acquiescence to hatred and xenophobia.

The rest of the world has a right to boycott all Danish products.  The rest of the world has a right to not travel to Denmark and to not invest in its economy.

If Denmark wishes to treat foreigners as second-class humans and to impose a minimum age restriction on 24 in order to marry a foreigner, as if marrying a foreigner were a vice to be controlled against, then the rest of the world has a right to treat Denmark as a second-class country and to treat its products, its tourist attractions, and its economy as second-class.

The United States builds walls to keep out immigrants and refuses to pass laws that would encourage education, such as the DREAM Act, but the United States is a large and powerful country.  The United States can get away with it.

Denmark is not large and Denmark is not powerful.  Were it not for the EU's economic protection and the United States' military protection, Denmark would be a nothing country with nothing laws and a nothing economy to match its xenophobic attitudes and racist laws.

Denmark's government should do well to remember this.

Those citizens of Denmark who agree with reason and who are enlightened, and who wish to marry for love and without suffering humiliation should know that there do exist countries that are welcoming and that are governed by a genuine commitment to human rights.  

Denmark is simply not one of them. 

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