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. http://www.economist.com/news/leaders/21649465-eus-policy-maritime-refugees-has-gone-disastrously-wrong-europes-boat-people
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).
Aloha, Barry (and Renée)