Integrating Immigration Controls into Daily Life

By Dan Cadman on September 28, 2015

My wife and I are frequent watchers of the television show "House Hunters International". Having lived and traveled abroad, we are always fascinated by what we see of various countries and cultures, collapsed into a half-hour's viewing.

We recognize that parts of the show appear to be tailored or scripted, but even so you get at least a flavor of many other parts of the world through the microcosm of foreigners' searches for just the right home in which to start their new lives abroad.

One of the things that is almost inevitably left fuzzy is just exactly what kind of visas or other immigration permits the house hunters have obtained in order to be in the new country where, as often as not, they are also seeking jobs. That's why we were both surprised at the level of specificity in a recent episode. A young South African couple was relocating to the country right next door, Namibia, where the husband would be working for the same employer, only in its Namibian subsidiary. To do so, a work visa was required — even for South Africans, despite the fact that German colonial Namibia was conquered by South Africa during World War I and its government functioned under a South African mandate from then until independence in 1990.

Contrary to the usual obliqueness toward visas and permits exhibited by the show, the work visa was mentioned repeatedly during this episode, and for an interesting reason: In Namibia foreigners need to attach physical evidence of their legal status with their sale or rental documents to purchase or rent a home. In fact, you can't apply for a job, open a bank account, or obtain a mobile phone without providing proof of your legal status.

Banish the thought that Namibia may be one of those despotic little places that populate much of the third world, including Africa, where every facet of life is controlled not only for foreigners but its citizenry. Not so. It is a left-leaning democratic republic with vast mineral deposits ranging from diamonds to uranium and, although there are wealth disparities in the population, the CIA World Factbook describes Namibia as "an upper middle income country".

Can you imagine? A nation that takes its immigration laws seriously enough that it integrates enforcement into daily living, making it extremely difficult, if not impossible, for aliens to reside and work illegally.

Here in the United States we can't even get our act together enough to require E-Verify as a means to impede aliens from working unlawfully. And we wonder why we have a population of 11-12 million aliens living illegally in the country. Perhaps we could learn a thing or two from other nations, including those in the developing world, where they obviously care enough for the native workforce to want to protect their ability and right to live decently and raise their families without competing against individuals with no right to be in the country.