Immigration Issues in US are Mirrored Worldwide

December 12, 2010 § 1 Comment

People are crossing the globe in unprecedented numbers, with more than 200 million living outside their home countries. That figure has grown by more than 40% in the past decade. In booming economies, the immigrants, both legal and illegal, are largely tolerated, if not quietly welcomed, because they do jobs that natives can’t or won’t perform. But in recessions, immigrants often find themselves on the wrong side of public opinion and political will, blamed – accurately or not – for taxing strained social programs and contributing to unemployment rates by working at below-market wages. In the US, politicians have begun calling for tougher border security and more deportations as the economy continues to sputter. The resulting crackdowns have been criticized both as not harsh enough and too harsh, with the debate becoming more polarizing seemingly by the day. But as the rising tension over immigrants across the globe makes clear, immigration is not a challenge just for Americans. From Asia to Africa to Europe, governments are confronting the same questions that are vexing US policy makers. No developed nation has devised a perfect solution, and there has been no one-size-fits-all answer to one of the world’s most complex problems. Spain embraced immigrants for years, with wave after wave of amnesty programs. Then the economy collapsed. Today, Spain is trying to seal its borders. In Italy, politicians shifted from accepting immigrants to pursuing anti-immigrant measures with zeal, intercepting new arrivals and rounding up and deporting other foreigners. Yet the decline in immigration there, as in the US, seems to be tied as much to the economy and lack of jobs as the enforcement measures. In Germany, guest workers were welcomed for decades. But neither they nor their German-born children and grandchildren fully integrated into the rest of society, partly because they were never given the full rights of Germans. The rest of the country is still grappling with its anxiety and resentment of the group of second-class residents it created. In the long term, global migration is expected to remain a fact of life on Earth, so immigrants and the immigration backlash will continue to challenge the ingenuity of governments everywhere. “People are always on the move,” said Apichai Shipper, a global-immigration expert and a visiting scholar at UCLA’s Terasaki Center for Japanese Studies. “People were moving before there were nations. People don’t move because of nations; people move in spite of nations. I don’t think that will ever stop.” (AZ Republic)


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