Barry’s Gleanings: Immigration

“THE European Union likes to boast that it is a force for good. But in the past ten days as many as 1,200 boat people have drowned in the waters of the Mediterranean. An unknown number were refugees from Syria, Eritrea and Somalia fleeing war or persecution. They perished in part because the EU’s policy on asylum is a moral and political failure.

In a hastily arranged summit, under way as The Economist went to press, EU leaders set out to do something about the drownings. Before them was a ten-point plan designed to enhance rescues, suppress people-smuggling and spread the burden of taking in refugees. Yet, even if Europe’s leaders embraced the plan in full, it would still fall short.

Officials say 1m migrants are camped on the southern shore of the Mediterranean, waiting to embark on a life that is incomparably better than the one they are leaving behind. The Arab world is engulfed in fighting that is likely to last decades and which has set whole nations adrift. Chunks of Africa are prey to sectarian and ethnic strife and to environmental depredation. An enclave of stability and wealth in an ocean of violence, Europe has not begun to grapple with the choices ahead” says the beginning of an article in The Economist.


from “Europe’s boat people” – The Economist – April 2015

The Optimist – Summer 2015 – column  “The world is a better place than you think” by Marco Visscer recently wrote, “Immigration: People in the West fear a mass influx of immigrants.  But what would really happen if we loosened the borders?”

“Africans heading for Europe in rickety boats have been all over the news lately.  Some have drowned; more fortunate ones have been rescued.  Thousands have already died this year — dozens of times as many as in past years.  Refugee boat disasters have been the main topic of debate in Europe.

Politicians are searching for ways of dealing with the flood of illegal arrivals; proposals include stricter controls and immigrant quotas.  Meanwhile, commentators fume over the European Union’s inability to provide emergency aid at sea.  The debate over boat refugees appears to revolve around the widely held belief that immigration is undesirable and should be prevented.

But is immigration really something the West should fear?  Will it hurt us if hordes of people come to Europe–or North America–in search of a better life?

It’s impossible to calculate what effect easing immigration controls might have on the global economy.  Some estimates, thug, calculate an annual benefit in the trillions of dollars.  The logic runs as follows: if the unimpeded flow of goods and services makes the world richer, so will lifting bans on the free movement of human beings.

‘Is Migration Good for the Economy?’ asked the title of a 2014 OECD report.  Its answer: a resounding yes.  Immigrants account for almost half of the expansion of the U.S. workforce in the past decade.  They fill niches in fast-growing and declining sectors.  And they do jobs that native-born people are no longer interested in.  So they don’t so much steal work as create it.  And as a group, contrary to public opinion, immigrants contribute more in taxes than they receive in benefits, to which they usually have limited access.  Since they go to school elsewhere, they don’t cost the state money that needs to be “paid back” to even the balance sheet.  And immigrants are more enterprising than nonimmigrants.  In the UK, for instance, they start twice as many businesses as the British.

They help their homelands’ economies, too.  A World Bank report estimated that immigrants would transfer $436 billion to their native countries last year.  That’s more than triple the total amount of development aid in 2014, which clocked in at $134 billion, according to the OECD.  And while development funds are spent mostly on infrastructure projects and humanitarian interventions, money sent home by immigrants goes directly to families.

There’s a fear that if we throw open the gates, “they” will come en masse.  History says otherwise.  After the EU admitted ten formerly communist countries, there was no law to keep 100 million citizens from moving to wealthier parts of Europe.  The gap was considerable: average income in Sweden was eight times that in Romania.  But in ten years, only about four million Eastern Europeans moved between countries–and many later returned home.

This spring, British commentator Philippe Legrain pointed out in The New York Times that Europe could learn from what happened with the U.S.–Mexico border.  Until the 1950s, it was loosely guarded, and Mexicans came north to do seasonal work, but most didn’t stay.  It was after the U.S. decided to close the border that settlement increased.  Evidently, those who want outsiders who enter Europe to leave again should make the borders more porous, not less.

In his 2009 book Immigrants: Your Country Needs Them, Legrain pointed out that immigrants could help fill gaps in the labor market in countries with aging populations.  The EU’s shrinking workforce presents a serious challenge.  It numbered 336 million in 2010; by 2030, the figure will drop to 300 million.  Meanwhile, with its population aging, Europe will need more health care workers.  If it keeps the borders sealed, it will be following a recipe for long-term economic stagnation.

Why, then, is Europe allowing the Mediterranean Sea to become a mass grave?” (96).

And what about all those wonderful students who come to the U.S. to study?  Shouldn’t we be accepting all those educated people who want to stay?  Our immigration policies in Europe and the United States should be widened to accept the hard-working and gutsy people who leave their own countries of origin (similar to many of our own ancestors).

Immigrants built the U.S.

Immigrants built the U.S.

Each person has talents to offer

Each person has talents to offer

Some have skills they bring with them

Some have wonderful skills they bring with them

There's room for us all

There’s room for us all

Aloha, Barry (and Renée)


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About reneeriley

Our blog was begun as a way to share our experiences in China. From August 2010 to July 2011, my husband, Barry Kristel, and I were at our University of Hawaii Maui College sister school, Zhejiang Agriculture and Forestry University in Lin'an, China, a city considered rural because it has only 500,000 people! We had a wonderful time. Then in February 2012, we returned to teach this time at our other sister school, Shanghai Normal University, in a city of over 21 million people. We've made many discoveries. Did you know that now Chinese girls, at least the ones who go to university, for the most part feel they are luckier than the Chinese boys? Did you know that Shanghai saved over 20,000 European Jews during WWII? Do you know how Chinese university students would deal with problems that come up in Dear Abby letters? What's it like to be on the Great Wall of China? Do you know how many Chinese girls had their feet bound and why? And we have recipes from many of the places we've visited. Among others, you can find instructions on how to fry cicadas from one of my ZAFU students and how to make chocolate-Kahlua waffles from my brother Mike in Gainesville. You can also look back to our earliest entry to see what we experienced in Oaxaca, Mexico, in 2006 during the mainly peaceful six months of protest until the Mexican government sent in the troops. Between our stays in China, Barry and I have been on the Mainland U.S. visiting family, friends and Servas hosts as we traveled home to Maui. We share those experiences too. Welcome to our blog! Aloha and Zài Jiàn, Renée and Barry

6 responses to “Barry’s Gleanings: Immigration”

  1. Rosita says :

    It’s a sad situation, of course. I don’t know much things about Africa, but I know that most African countries are undeveloped, and most of the inhabitants are poor, who’s a sad reality common for most African countries, who live on a situation of extreme poverty, ebola, malaria and other diseases can aggravate the situation of the misery on these countries, no? Yes, yes, it’s sad, but it’s the true. And some NGOs (Non-Governmental Organization) as such DWB (Doctors Without Borders) and so many others are saving lives and helping persons at these countries. I think the work of DWB (Doctors Without Borders) is very beautiful and these doctors have a good karma, and they will be recompensed by their good acts. Africa have so many undeveloped countries, despite the beautiful nature, with an unique and fragile ecosystem who can make some zoologists and biologists go crazy, but, sadly, we receive most bad than good notices of African countries, such as epidemics, poverty and civil wars, who is true, but most of African countries countries are very poor and aren’t very prepared to the tourism as other African countries, such as Seychelles islands, Egypt and South Africa, who have so many luxurious hotels and beautiful postcards, but it’s an exception, because most African countries don’t have much to offer to tourists and their inhabitants, diseases and civil wars aggravate their situation, and make most of them immigrate to Europa, Asia or USA, and they’re very discriminated by USA and European people. It’s only my opinion, and what do you think about it?

  2. Rosita says :

    I caught dengue AGAIN and I’m feeling bad, but I have an ask about immigrants who enter USA, Europe or Asia: how hard is for they get jobs? They’re very discriminated?

  3. reneeriley says :

    Hi Rosita: I’m sorry you have dengue again! How awful. When my friend Chris got it, she slept for eight days! I hope you don’t have to go to the hospital. Chris had a fresh coconut every day and that seemed to help her get better. I know your dogs are watching over you.

    As for your question about immigrants, for most, it is very hard to get legal, good paying, professional jobs. It’s hard for even the most well educated at least in the U.S. That’s ridiculous! Especially since 2011, immigration has become very difficult.

    Now some young foreign people come to Maui, for instance, and get temporary jobs without work permits. That is risky because the employers are already breaking the law by hiring undocumented workers, so those workers have to take the chance that their working conditions will be safe and that they will actually be paid.

    However, I’m hopeful that President Obama will institute more reasonable immigration policies before he leaves office. I hope the laws become more favorable for immigrants all over the world. Feel better. Aloha, Renee

  4. Rosita says :

    Keep tranquil, I don’t had to go to the hospital, my dengue is too mild to go to the hospital (yes, I still with dengue until last Saturday). And about my dogs, you’re correct. They’re my safe haven, specially Cleo. I simply LOVE dogs – much more than certain persons -, because they CANNOT judge me by my acts and always will trust on me when humans lose their confidence on humanity 🐶💖 sometimes, I think I was a dog on my past life hahaha 😜😝 and about the immigrants, I hope that STOP civil wars and epidemies, and they wouldn’t have a reason to scape of their countries. Oh, a world without diseases, violence and hungry, with humans and animals coexisting in harmony, without fear and traumas! It would be the perfect world for all of us, an utopia, maybe… But if we work for that dream, it can turn reality, one day 😉

    • reneeriley says :

      Hi Rosita: There is definitely much work that needs to be done in the world. We each can do our part to make life better for people and animals – I agree.

    • reneeriley says :

      Hi Rosita: I agree – dogs naturally have qualities that we aspire to have: unconditional love, loyalty, patience . . . And I can see that Black lives on in your life too. Now Cleo, Bali, and Djoko are paying good attention to you – because that’s what dogs do. Get well soon. Aloha, Renee

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