Part V - Dispelling the Fallacies of Immigration
1 August 2018
A near universality of economists, representing the entire political spectrum recognize the benefits of immigration. This recognition is not out of political ideology, but empirical data that proves immigration has net-benefits for the economy. An open letter from 1470 economists was sent to the United States Congress, Senate, and President in an attempt to preserve the valuable system of immigration that has helped the United States prosper throughout its history.
The fallacies of immigration are not centred solely on the economy, nor are they isolated to the United States. Currently, both Europe and the United States have reached an impasse among their constituents about how to handle immigration. The primary concerns are rooted in the perceived economic hardship immigration brings to the local population as well as the changes to predominant social and cultural status. These two issues have driven the recent rise in populist sentiment against immigration and more specifically, migration. There is an important distinction here, one that usually is missed by the supporters of restricted immigration. Immigration is defined as the action of coming to live permanently in a different state, whereas migration is the movement from one area to another. It is migration that is the true source of frustration for most.
For Europe, the dissatisfaction is rooted in the chaos in the Middle East and Northern Africa (MENA). For the United States, the dissatisfaction lies in the gang-ridden countries of El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala. With political crises throughout the MENA region, particularly the civil war in Syria, millions of refugees have migrated to Europe, affecting Italy, Greece, and Germany the most. A concerning cyclical deportation policy in the U.S. has led to the creation of gangs in Central America, which has led more people to migrate to the U.S. (learn more about this here, in a recently published article).
Of course, migration, from both of these regions must be controlled. Certainly, increasing globalization and cosmopolitanism has made borders more fluid, and this has generally been good, allowing travel, trade, ideas, and culture to be shared and exchanged. Yet, borders are still important. Too much disruptive behaviour will and has been shown to cause many to revolt against the establishment for its perceived inability to protect its sovereignty from foreigners. Common ground on how to control the flow of migration must be found; no rational actor believes that the uncontrolled flow of migration is good. Concurrently, it ought to be a wealthy country’s duty to help others when their government or large national actors are threatening their ability to live.
The European Union has been in the process and must continue to find a solution to their migration issue. Austria’s chancellor believes paying MENA countries to prevent the movement of migrants to Europe will lower the numbers and prevent drownings across the Mediterranean. Italy’s new prime minister wants a policy where E.U. countries must share the burden of migrants equally. In the U.S., the government should act to prevent the cyclical behaviour of its current policies that drive up gang violence in Central America, increasing migrant numbers. By settling the current migrants into American life, they can be productive members of society. Migrants pose a deeper and more controversial issue than immigration, but regardless, both must be dealt with.
For immigration, addressing the guise of economic hardship is simple, data simply shows that immigration is beneficial. Since the United States and Europe have low fertility rates, labour must be imported. This includes both high and low-skilled labour. Immigration drives entrepreneurship, offsets the baby-boom generation, diversifies skillsets, encourages innovation, and improves the productivity of local workers.
In the 1960s the U.S. government believed that seasonal permits for Mexicans working on farms was politically unsustainable. These permits were largely in California and a typical job was hand-picking tomatoes. In 1964, 97 percent of California tomatoes were picked by hand. After President Johnson ended the program, 90 percent of California tomatoes were picked by machine. That was over a two-year period. It did not open jobs to Americans like many imagined.
Addressing the cultural adjustment is more difficult and controversial. Creating an environment and policies that mix cultures are of particular importance. It is increased interactions that decrease animosity between groups and breaks down preconceived notions about other ethnicities. At national levels, governments should encourage immigrants to settle throughout the country instead of grouping together, which prevents interactions. Of course, this cannot be implemented perfectly; local governments need to facilitate programs that create opportunities for greater engagement and interactions between groups. Events the share cultural experiences or are agnostic to culture encourage all to participate and will further the cultural acceptance.
Besides increasing the level of interaction between locals and immigrants, bettering the education of locals will lower tensions and reduce ignorance. Setting aside ideology used by political parties that often preys on the differences between people, and educating based on facts, will assist in dispelling misinformation. Contrary to popular belief, immigrants commit fewer crimes and fewer terror attacks than locals. Creating an effective educational campaign based on objectivity, while setting aside political propaganda will improve perceptions of immigrants.
Educating the public on the economic facts and encouraging interactions between different cultures takes time and can be difficult. Individuals and communities can help speed up this process. By discouraging the fear of ‘the other’, appealing to the empathetic, patriotic importance of openness, emphasizing unity over division, and focusing on common values and ideas, previously ardent anti-immigrationers can be persuaded.