Celebrating immigration: A reason we can all agree on
Alabama's hideous immigration law, which was to take effect Thursday, was temporarily blocked on Monday. Since its introduction, the law has been criticized because it ...
--"effectively turns police and civilians into immigration agents." [Los Angeles Times]
--is "the country’s cruelest, most unforgiving immigration law [...] that so vividly brings to mind the Fugitive Slave Act, the brutal legal and law-enforcement apparatus of the Jim Crow era." [New York Times]
--"jeopardizes reasonable, compassionate outreach by religious groups." [Cullman Times]
--"cement[s] Alabama’s reputation as a state where the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s work is unfinished." [Washington Post]
The harshest critics of illegal immigration see the issue through a different lens. Why, they ask, should we hand over our jobs to undocumented workers when so many of our own citizens are unemployed? Why, they'd like to know, should our tax dollars subsidize a free education for children who are here illegally? Alabama's law would surely answer those concerns with an iron fist.
A recent piece in the Economist, however, explains why it's a good idea to embrace immigration. And, further, that we should be concerned about the recent decrease in immigration to the U.S.
Politicians often say that they want a sensible debate about immigration; but too often they pander to voters’ fears of immigrants rather than attempting to allay them. They should be particularly wary of doing so now. There is growing competition for their skills elsewhere (see article): Asia is fast becoming the new magnet for migrants.
China, which used to be closed to immigrant labour, is now handing out residency permits to professionals, academics and entrepreneurs. In 2009 Shanghai recorded 100,000 foreigners living there. A similar number have settled in the southern port of Guangzhou, drawn from Europe, the Middle East and Africa. South Korea has also witnessed a rise in incomers since 2007 and is particularly keen to attract American-educated graduates.
Immigration is, on the whole, good for economies; and right now, rich countries can do with all the economic help they can get. Rather than sending immigrants home, with their skills, energy, ideas and willingness to work, governments should be encouraging them to come. If they don’t, governments elsewhere will.
Photo: Children sit in the gym at Crossville Elmentary School in Crossville, Ala., this month. Credit: Jay Reeves / Associated Press