Preliminary Thoughts on Immigration

#LEAVE NO ONE BEHIND Photo by Etienne Girardet.

For most of my life- due to my experience both with racism as a kid in my home country as well as, after having migrated being an immigrant myself- I have more or less followed the line of the Left on this matter. Immigration is good, relatively open borders are not an issue, opposition to these values is Anti-European (ha!) and reactionary. My mind has largely not changed on these matters though I have adjusted slightly in the specifics. These thoughts relate mostly to illegal immigration and shouldn’t be seen as a manifesto but rather a half-way point, I hope that discussion will lead me further and I hope I give others something to think about.

Immigration is a boon to the economy.

It is largely true that immigration is beneficial for long term economic growth though it should be said that high skilled workers tend to be more beneficial than low skill ones, legality can affect their employment and how efficiently they are able to use their skills. And yet we shouldn’t be only concerned for the economy without considering how economic arguments can sideline issues more tangible to workers. A business magnate may have an interest in the *line* because labour is organized around him and each fluctuation is more visible for him. The economic argument can also have the drawback of even alienating the worker as he perceives being sacrificed for the sake of an obscure economy.

Immigrants need work that fits them.

Unsurprisingly. As mentioned above, legality can complicate the life of an immigrant, he will have greater trouble integrating into labour as well as into culture at large. He has to avoid Employment Agencies or other efficient, central employment services for fear of deportation. Set apart from the labour mainstream one cannot access the same protections as other workers and is also less capable of benefiting his community, the latter part being key for arguing for broader immigration.

Change in Culture & Religion.

A concrete issue many bring up is the change of culture and the effects of foreign religions, the often unsavory implications that follow about racial change I will not be entertaining here. The concern is warranted, at least to some extent, it is easy to point out the cultural power of POC in music, food and fashion nowadays. But ask anyone about a country’s diaspora and you’ll find their culture changed. Every such community adapts more of the dominant culture than it changes it to the point of frustration for nationalists fearing their own cultural decline.

The matter of Language.

The anxiety over change and clashes of cultures raises the question: What duties does an Immigrant have? Certainly there are things that are good for him to do, not break the laws, learn about the local culture and history. Yet ultimately any person has the same moral duties, and if all immigrants were loud jaywalkers that is no sin. And if an immigrant raped a white woman would he be worse than a native? And if conservatives had an interest in stopping violence against women they would perhaps be less offended by phrases like “teach men not to rape” when it concerns their own.

I would like to say though that Language takes up a special place in the general duties of an Immigrant and though everyone should be met with empathy when learning a new skill learning the language is one of the fastest ways to integrate (as well as possible) since it allows communication, the navigation of the bureaucracy and will lead to higher respect among in the mainstream.

The Problem of Governance.

Finally issues of structure cannot be overlooked. If all immigrants were breaking certain laws this would warrant investigation. I strongly believe that if immigrants were not marginalized but instead governed according to their needs many of the tensions that arise from their presence would be resolved faster. Time of course is needed no matter the party in power but the fact remains that there are camps filled with capable people that at the very least could be put to do something useful, instead they are processed ad infinitum. Perhaps we need to imagine ourselves as Roman Consuls, you want to take part in our Empire? Then help build this aqueduct, guard our borders or any other work that inspires pride. Other, less ego-maniacal policies such as establishment of national churches for different religions or denominations might also help settle immigrants that are looking to stay permanently or for extended periods.

Is Immigration good for Immigrants?

The immediate answer to this question is of course yes. People typically immigrate to seek a better life or at least escape a bad one. Yet immigrants will not only be faced with new challenges, ranging from racism to the more general struggle of living in a new society, but it might also sap their country of skilled individuals and progressive forces. The problem of brain drain is a present one especially in countries such as Poland or Bulgaria and it was seen as such a crucial issue by the East Germans that it lead to the construction of the Berlin Wall. And though I have heard that such measures can improve the economy and such we should be careful with what lessons to take away. In essence we must wonder whether we are simply pushing the betterment of people back some steps by requiring them to come to the first world rather than assisting them in building better lives at home. From a budgetary point of view this is of course a greater cost though Geo-strategic gains and the well being of citizens of other countries might outweigh the purely monetary.

Climate Change.

The climate crisis raises some conflicting issues with regard to immigration, specifically when the issue is brought up it’s about the [hordes] of migrants fleeing the conditions of Black Africa, Asia or South America. But we have migrants today and we must wonder, aside from the other considerations, some of which we addressed already, we must wonder: do we want migrants to live like us? That is to say, should they consume like we do currently? One might say that “everyone wants to live like in the first world” and yet again I wonder if we are creating “extra steps” for the betterment of people’s lives, improving them in one way only for those ways of life to require “reforming” down the line. Instead we could hope for alternatives to the “western lifestyles” to develop more naturally out of societies that want to be competitive in the future. Now, while some might say that these issues are not as important since we should “focus on the big companies first” that implies we have alternatives for that already, and second we also need to consider that we are not talking about individuals here but rather about populations that affect the environment in significant ways. That is not to say that we ought to ignore corporations or the state- but rather that consumer behavior needs to be considered for any comprehensive programme.

Unionism and Immigration

An interesting question with regards to immigration is unionism, some make the argument that newly arrived immigrants can harm native workers. One will find mixed results when you only look for payment, more interesting is immigration’s effects on unions and here we might have an issue for native workers as local Labour is increased and unions are less capable of artificially creating labour scarcities. Sadly, I couldn’t find any articles or studies specifically studying the impacts of illegal immigration on unions, I have the suspicion though that illegal immigration is overall worse for unions and that the general flows of internal migrants, are not significantly different from international migrants for the state of labour organizing. A thing I want to hang onto the end of this passage is an article that discusses the role of unionism in combating white supremacy as it relates to the interests of migrants.

Security Concerns & Jurisprudence

Though very common points brought up when talking about immigration I have to admit I don’t have many thoughts on them, a large portion of security concerns seem to relate to (organized) crime in ways that probably are combated better through internal policy or by taking greater interest in how policies enacted in one state can affect it’s neighbors and how those can in turn affect the home country. To give an example, the legal status of prostitution in central European countries and how it relates to trafficking (itself a question of Illegal Immigration). On the question of Terrorism I do wonder how much of an issue it would be in a post-2001, post-2016 world though the way any of these problems would be handled depends on the actors quite heavily.

Who are we?

Moving on we must wonder, if we want to solve any issue and especially that of immigration, who we are and who we want or need to be. For any electorally oriented groups legitimization to the electorate plays a big role, ignoring laws because of other factors, attempting to circumvent the democratic system might work after ground work has been conducted but might also be a death sentence for any such groups. If we instead see ourselves entirely as “the people”, equals to the migrants rather than vying for the attention of various classes, other possibilities might open up. “The People” do not need to concern themselves with populations but can give aid to those that make an effort, they don’t need to concern themselves with legality beyond practical considerations because they don’t aspire to be ‘of the state’ and therefore don’t need to keep it alive by any means. Yet, this approach might still alienate others or be in general not capable of solving some of the issues broached above. Yet I feel personally drawn to it both for it’s radical charm but also because one would hope that it deals with the issue of identity. To quote from Julia Tallmeister’s Essay on immigration:

“The concept of societal security primarily deals with the issue of collective identity. As explained by Ole Waever (1993), societal security “concerns the ability of a society to persist in its essential character under changing conditions and possible or actual threats” […] It is immigration in general, whether voluntary or involuntary, legal or illegal, that constitutes this threat, as long as the immigrants pose a challenge to the identity of the receiving state through their different language, culture, or religion.

J. Tallmeister, 2013

And it is here where I hope that the newfound identity of “the people” would help in easing the tensions that arise when immigration is framed as the injection of one culture into another.

In conclusion

As mentioned my thoughts have, at this point not much swayed from the “party line” and could be summed up as follows: If one sees oneself as “the people” they should fairly simply try their best to assist immigrants, to integrate them into the struggle, etc Business as usual so to speak. For the electorally minded I believe a more opportunistic strategy is allowed. The restriction of migration can be done. However it should only be done from a position of power so as not to simply marginalize people further. That compromise can include firm positions against discrimination of immigrants already in the country or any aforementioned policies that would help immigrants. For Europe I would hope that this potential compromise would include strong sea rescue initiatives even if those rescued were deported.

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