There are many subtle, and not so subtle, ways to let somebody know, “You can stay here, but I don’t really want you here.” Like, letting someone stay at your house, but making them leave when you go to work because you “don’t have another key.” Or constantly asking someone sleeping on your pullout couch, “When does your flight leave again?” Then there’s the all-time classic: pretending that you have another guest coming, so your current guest has to get out. These are all passive-aggressive ways of saying, “I’m cool with you coming over to fix my computer or to go to that conference with, but I want you gone before your butt makes an impression on my sofa.”
The United Kingdom, in its post-Brexit fury, has turned being a lousy host into an international and human rights issue. To combat its self-imposed immigration problems, the U.K. is proposing “barista visas,” which is the immigration equivalent of, “You can visit this weekend, but only if you mow my lawn.”
The entire Brexit campaign in the U.K. was an extended “Get out” to anyone brown, tan, black or not Christian who was living in England. While Brexit was ostensibly about re-establishing British sovereignty in the face of an increasingly powerful European Union, the core motivation behind most of the voters was naked nationalism and racism.
Citizens of the European Union are free to move from one country to another with ease, and the conspiracy theory among pro-Brexit forces was that “undesirables” from Asia, Africa and South America would come to Europe, cherry-pick the nation with the easiest entry or citizenship, and then immigrate to the U.K. or sneak in illegally. So an economic, security and environmental apparatus that has existed in some form for almost half a century needed to be scrapped to keep out the brown folks. The problem is, the tiny island of Great Britain (plus Northern Ireland) can’t really function without all of those immigrants.
Restaurants, pubs, markets and the hospitality industry across the U.K. are dependent on cheap, often immigrant labor. And not just the cheap places. One study showed that just 1 in 50 applicants to Pret a Manger cafés in England is actually British, and it would take almost 10 years to replace those workers with domestic labor. Suddenly the British are facing their own “Day Without a Mexican” scenario, in which bigots have finally driven black and brown people out of the country, and now they can’t serve their own tea or flip their own burgers.
The solution, according to British think tank Migration Watch UK and the British Home Office (similar to our state department), is the barista visa. This special visa will allow people between the ages of 18 and 30 to come work in the U.K. for up to two years, as long as they work in the hospitality industry, like hotels, bars and restaurants. Of course, no matter how much you work, you have no access to health benefits or housing allowances and can’t be promoted into management.
In case there was any question about whether this plan was racially motivated and targeted at political population control, these barista visas are available only to nations like Australia, Canada, the U.S. and Japan, since they’re based on the U.K. “Youth Mobility Scheme.” Apparently Africans need not apply—I guess the British Tory government doesn’t think black people make cute baristas. (It seems they never saw the “You Don’t Know My Name” video with Alicia Keys.)
Needless to say, the initial response to formalized second-class citizenship hasn’t been too hot. They can try to romanticize it all they want, but even foreign students aren’t going to be attracted to the idea of spending a summer in London if they can’t even move from dishes to fries. Further, since the U.K. is one of the biggest destinations for Africans from across the Diaspora, it’s not too hard to envision that this barista visa is the first step to similar limitations from “certain” countries.
If Brexit was a harbinger of Donald Trump’s election, it’s fair to assume that the barista visa is going to make its way to America, too. Given the absolute crisis in American retail, mixed with Trump’s hyperaggressive deportation policy, this administration will be aping the Brits soon enough.
I can see White House press secretary Sean Spicer promoting the “Panera passport,” open to French students with heavy accents willing to work in business plazas in the Midwest; “Wal-Mart working papers” for South Americans willing to be paid illegal-immigrant wages, despite working for America’s largest employer; and, finally, the “Verizon visa” for Southeast Asians interested in working in various mobile-phone mall kiosks to answer questions from white suburban moms.
If it sounds racist, that only increases the likelihood that Trump will one day try it. This administration has no problem reducing black, brown and tan people to second-class citizenship as long as it comes with a smile, a dollop of whip cream and a side of biscotti.