Immigrants – Your Country Needs Them by Philippe Legrain
Immigration has been an area of curiosity for me. I believe that we are all immigrants. It just that our time of arrival on a particular land differs. Having said that, in an any given generation, there are certain lands that hold more promise than the others. And many people are lured to land there threatening the citizens thereof their rights. This leads to conflict between those who want to immigrate and those who are already living there. The conflict or the perception of ‘mine and their’ has led to many things like immigration checks at the borders. A cap on the number of people allowed to enter a country. And raising barriers for foreigners to enter the country. The rich and famous never have to worry about the borders. It is the bottom of the pyramid that has to suffer here as well as they face the maximum barriers.
In today’s world, it is the USA and Europe that are the promised lands. Where poor people from poor countries want to go in search of a better life. The worst standards of living in rich countries are better than what many people can afford in their countries of birth. And hence they are willing to risk everything to immigrate. They are willing to work hard. They are willing to be law-abiding tax paying citizens for that promised future. The question that the book tries to look at it – How do the rich countries perceive these poor and most of the times illegal migrants.
The author argues that the rich countries need the poor immigrants. As they do a lot of low-profile jobs that most people in the country are unwilling to do. He then addresses the biggest fear that the residents have of losing jobs to the new immigrants by quoting data. And inferring that the new residents actually contribute to the economy as they spend what they earn in the same economy. He also brings forth the idea of diversity that the immigrants bring. His chapter on Muslims is not as convincing as the rest of the chapters. Though he makes the politically correct statement that not all Muslims are terrorist. And they must be treated at par. But he brings out data that shows that percentage of Muslim population in Europe is on the rise.
He gives a 5-step process by a liberal Muslim to integrate Muslims in European countries. But somehow I did not find his arguments being put forth with the same conviction as the rest of the book. And he has dedicated one full chapter to this.
At the nation’s level, his argument is that remittances back home by the immigrants have a far bigger impact on the economies of the poor nations. Rather than all the grants given by the governments where a significant portion is lost in transmission. He compares the cost of raising barriers with the cost of hosting the immigrants. And feels that the latter is obviously low. He gives gruesome data on how the number of people who lost lives while trying to enter the US through various means is far more than the lives lost in 9/11 and questions is it worth it. He also brings forth the fact that most of these rich economies today are inherently immigrant nations. But they seem to have forgotten that.
He advocates a free movement policy. And taking the example of European Union he tries to showcase that opening border has not really increased the number of immigrants. But it has legalized a lot of them who were working illegally anyway.
The book is primarily written based on the immigration data in USA, Europe and to some extent Australia and Canada. There are lots and lots of data in the book. I got lost in it many times. There are certain immigrations that are well studied like those into UK, Spain, and the US. He concludes that Canada handles the immigrants the best, by integrating them. By allowing them the freedom but at the same time expecting an allegiance to the Constitution. He is critical of Europe and Australia’s policies of high barriers. And selective entry while he has all his preaching for the US. He seems to be unaware of countries like India who have an immigration issue of the same scale if not bigger.
Though it is limited in its scope, it still offers some insights into the phenomenon of migrations across borders. So, if immigration interests you, you would find some hidden insights into the process and lots of data.