President Donald Trump has called immigration into the U.S. across the southern border a national crisis. He refused to sign any Congressional bill that does not include money for construction of a wall along it triggering the longest government shutdown in American history. When Democrats refused to budge, he threatened to invoke emergency powers.
Humans have migrated throughout history and will continue to do as long as they are constrained by circumstances. Immigration has become the most significant development of the last quarter century. The Time magazine deputized its correspondents for months that interviewed migrants around the world revealing a consistent reality: today’s global society is faced by migration challenges that cannot be contained by any physical barriers. The United Nations organization in a 2017 report estimates 258 million people living in a country other than their country of birth. Europe and the United States have become the number one destination for migrants. The force is tidal and cannot be reversed by walls. According to Time if the world’s migrant’s total population in 2018 were placed together; it would constitute its fifth largest country.
Root Causes of global migration
An examination of what causes migration shows there are push factors why people want to leave their home country and pull factors why people want to come to a new country. These push and pull factors could be economic, environmental, social, and political. Persecution, violence, and wars cause danger to individuals and induce them to migrate, correspondingly seeking safety, stability, and freedom. In general, it is economics that induces people to migrate from poorer developing areas of the world to richer developed areas where they could find jobs with higher wages. Migrants move to ensure better opportunities for themselves and their families, such as sending their child to a better, safer school, and finding a job that would not only have sufficient salary but also important benefits and career growth prospects.
The United States is not alone in coping with waves of new immigrants and asylum seekers. Venezuela’s economy collapsed and drove more than 3 million into its neighboring countries. Violence in sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East, and Afghanistan has made Uganda, Kenya, Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon, and Pakistan into the largest refugee camps. The Rohingya driven out of Myanmar into Bangladesh have adversely impacted its economy.
Europe received about 2 million new migrants from 2015 to 2016 from the Middle East and Africa. But the influx of newcomers has dropped greatly since 2016 and is roughly equal what they were in 2014.
Defining a refugee
Under U.S. law a “refugee” is a person who is unable or unwilling to return to his or her home country because of a “well-founded fear of persecution” due to race, membership in a particular social group, political opinion, religion, or national origin. This definition is based on the U.N. 1951 Convention and 1967 Protocols relating to the Status of Refugees signed by the U.S. in 1968. In 1980, Congress incorporated this definition into the Refugee Act, which committed the U.S. by law to grant asylum to anyone who meets that description.
Despite the continued rhetoric of Trump, there were actually fewer undocumented immigrants living in the U.S. in 2016 than in 2007, according to a study by Pew Research Center. Apprehensions along the border with Mexico dropped in 2017 to their lowest level since 1971. Contrary to what Trump suggested immigrants are less likely to commit crimes than the U.S. natives and are overwhelmingly more educated than were immigrants in the past. The biggest group, 41% of new immigrants from 2010 to 2017 came from Asia and not from Latin America, according to the analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data by the Brookings Institution. And as a whole, 45% of immigrants had college degrees, compared to 35% of non-Hispanic white Americans.
U.S. Refugee policy
The U.S. is a country made up of refugees, and it has long been a global leader in resettling refugees. The need remains huge since an enormous number of people are suffering from prevailing violence, persecution, and wars. Around the world there are about 68.5 million people forcefully displaced, 25.4 million have fled to other countries with more than half children. More than 5 million Syrians have left their country as a result of a brutal war that has killed 400,000.
Until recently, the U.S. offered refuge each year to more people than all other nations combined, but the Trump administration has drastically reduced the maximum number of refugees that can enter the U.S. Moreover, it has imposed new security vetting procedures before they can be admitted, lengthening the waiting period and leaving many refugees in dangerous situation.
Effects of migration for better or worse
This mass movement of people has changed the world for better and for worse. Immigrants are productive and worldwide in 2015 contributed about 9% to its GDP, according to estimates of the U.N. Much of that money is sent home, $480 billion in 2017, where it has great impact – some used for the passage next migrant, and some on amenities like smartphones to keep in touch.
Greatest attention, however, has recently focused on the impact of immigration on host countries. In some, they have been welcomed by crowds at train stations. In others, like miles-long images of caravans through Central America, or out of boats in the Mediterranean to lockdown borders, by native citizens.
Studies show that in the long run migrants nearly always are a boon to host countries. They may become entrepreneurs and innovators, or provide inexpensive labor and overwhelmingly repay in long-term economic contributions what they use in short term social services.
However, the voters are moved more by widespread perception of ‘out of control’ migration that is often fueled and perpetuated by populist leaders. Thus in elections across the European Union anti-immigration politicians campaigned to curb migration and protect their “Judeo-Christian culture” gaining unprecedented power. Such is the case populist leaders in the Czech Republic, Sweden, Slovenia, Hungary and Italy - where they plan to gain control of the European Parliament in the upcoming elections. In this situation, centrist politicians are passing control measures that would rectify voters’ concerns over migration and thereby limit the appeal of the most powerful weapon of populists.
The challenge is to avoid short term fears for the long term advantages since the truth is that the aging population of Europeans is in dire need of an influx of new migrants to serve as economic boom down the road.
Measuring the total economic of migrants on all industries is an impossible task, since their collective impact on the economy depends on their skills and levels of education, and industries where they are employed. But in general, studies show that while first generation immigrants depend on social services and rely heavily on safety net more than the native-born, their need for such help decreases over time. A 2018 study by the Brookings Institution said the economic outcomes of children of immigrants converged with those of children from native-born parents.
Researchers at the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office found that immigrants, as a whole raise total economic output by increasing the number of workers in the labor force, drive demand for goods and services, make the U.S. economy more productive, and contribute to state and the federal treasury. A 2016 study estimated that foreign-born workers contributed about $2 billion – about 10 percent of annual GDP, to the U.S. economy.
Experts agree any long-term solution must address the reasons why people leave their homes in the first place. In many countries, it means establishing security and rule of law, and some have suggested an international effort to give humanitarian aid and establish stability in nations from which tens of thousands flee each year. Last year, world leaders at the United Nations debated agreements to establish international norms governing how nations should treat refuges and asylum seekers, and the U.N. General Assembly adopted nonbinding agreements. The Global Compact for Migration is the first of its kind creating a comprehensive approach to international migration.