It is hard to say how much damage Prime Minister Gordon Brown did himself and his Labour Party when he called a prospective voter bigoted just before Britains general election. His excuse was that he didnt know he was talking on an open mike. Brown is finding out that crow is an acquired taste. It is also hard to say how much damage the state of Arizona has done to itself with its largest trading partner, Mexico, with its draconian new law tasking police with demanding proof of citizenship, or how the Republican Party will fare in the coming years if it cannot attract votes from Hispanics, Americas fastest growing ethnic group. For 65-year old Gillian Duffy of Rochdale in the English midlands, the problem is mostly legal immigrants from the continent. All those Eastern Europeans that are coming in, she said. Where are they coming in from? For Arizonans the problem is illegal Mexicans. There are many liberal-minded Americans calling the Republican-led Legislature in Arizona, and its Republican Governor, Jan Brewer, bigoted, but that just muddies the waters of a serious and complicated issue. Nevertheless, immigrants can be very beneficial to any country, bringing in new blood and new talent - especially in countries where without them birth rates would be dangerously falling. But immigrants can also be destabilising if immigration has been too fast and unregulated. The fear that many people such as Gillian Duffy and the Arizona legislators have of being overrun by illegal immigrants in their own land is a natural one. It solves nothing to sneer. Human beings are essentially tribal, forming families, clans, as well as ethnic and religious groupings. When times are good there is more open-mindedness, but when hard times create economic hardship and competition for jobs, barriers start to go up. Immigrants often fill a job vacuum. Restaurateurs have told me that they would go out of business were it not for the immigrants from Mexico and Central America - many of them illegal. An English hotelier once told me that she couldnt keep her hotels open were it not for the large number of Poles who were then coming into England looking for work. Many Britons, as well as other Europeans, also see a threat to their culture. Europeans have a couple thousand years of national cultures to worry about, while here in America our culture comes from so many sources that there is less of a perceived threat from foreigners. There was a time, a century ago, when the ruling classes were mostly made up of white Anglo-Saxon Protestants, but the WASP ascendancy has long since waned. There was a day when all the justices on the Supreme Court were white, but now the last Protestant is resigning. Europeans and Americans share the same recession anxieties. They can no longer take an assured future for granted. I dont know what Gillian Duffy felt about Eastern European cooking, but I know she feels threatened, and so do many Americans. The trick for any society is not to mock those fears, but to have effective rules that can control immigration. Keep the back door locked so that you can more effectively keep the front door open, runs the old clich. The Arizonians arent wrong to say that federal immigration policies and reforms have failed them. The other thing societies must do is to make sure that the people are not being beaten up because someone does not like the smell of their curry, which is what the Arizona law comes dangerously close to allowing. Khaleej Times