More generally, mass immigration is not popular anywhere. The Arizona Republic article linked below emphasizes the economic angle, how immigrants are less welcome when jobs are scarce for citizens.
Thatâ€™s true enough, but a Pew Research poll taken in 2007, before the current economic downturn, shows that a majority of persons in most countries favor less immigration (see World Publics Welcome Global Trade â€” But Not Immigration).
The graph included comes from that report. Interestingly, in sendaholic Mexico, 71 percent of those polled agree that the nation should â€?further restrict and control immigrationâ€? â€” they are world-class hypocrites.
People prefer being around others who share their language, culture and values. Itâ€™s human nature, arising for a desire for safety among the tribe; even Harvard sociology researcher Robert Putnam admits that â€?Diversity decreases trustâ€? and reduces social capital. So excessive numbers of foreigners get pushback from the local folks.
Governments across globe struggling with immigration, Arizona Republic, December 12, 2010
There are more immigrants in the world today than ever before.
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 percent 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 canâ€™t or wonâ€™t perform. But in recessions, immigrants often find themselves on the wrong side of public opinion and political will, blamed â€“ accurately or not â€“ for taxing strained social programs and contributing to unemployment rates by working at below-market wages.
In the United States, which has more immigrants than any nation, 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 U.S. policy makers.
An Arizona Republic examination of global immigration issues shows the challenges are universal â€“ and the solutions universally elusive.
For all the myriad approaches, no developed nation has devised a perfect solution, and there has been no one-size-fits-all answer to one of the worldâ€™s most complex problems.
Like the United States, many countries have tried amnesty, enforcement and guest-worker programs, sometimes alone, sometimes together. Even when a country finds a workable formula, the solution has not been sustainable because immigration and economic factors always are changing.
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 U.S., 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.
â€?People are always on the move,â€? said Apichai Shipper, a global-immigration expert and a visiting scholar at UCLAâ€™s Terasaki Center for Japanese Studies.
â€?People were moving before there were nations. People donâ€™t move because of nations; people move in spite of nations. I donâ€™t think that will ever stop.â€?
Immigration on the rise
There are 214 million immigrants in the world, up 64 million, or 43 percent, from the 150 million migrants in 2000, according to the United Nations. Immigrants now make up 3.1 percent of the worldâ€™s population, up from 2.9 in 1990.
Many developed countries, especially in Europe, have aging populations and low birthrates, so they depend on immigrants, legal and illegal, not only to fill jobs but also to help cover the growing social-security costs of retirees and support other welfare policies.
â€?The EU estimates that by 2030 a full 20 million people of Europe will have been retired, and somehow these people must be replaced,â€? said Demetrios Papademetriou, president of the Migration Policy Institute, a think tank in Washington, D.C.
As countries become more interconnected, it has become easier for people to move across borders and tap into informal social networks to find jobs and housing. Inexpensive phone cards, e-mail and Internet-video connections make it easier for migrants to stay in touch with families back home.
Illegal immigration is a product of that globalization, said Jean-Philippe Chauzy, a Geneva-based spokesman for the International Organization for Migration, an intergovernmental agency that tracks global migration.
There are no hard numbers for how many immigrants are illegal:
- Between 15 and 20 percent of the worldâ€™s immigrant population may be illegal, Papademetriou has estimated. That would be 32 million to 42 million people based on the worldâ€™s current immigrant population of 214 million.
- Between 10 and 15 percent of all immigrants in developed countries are there illegally, according to the Organization for Economic Development and Cooperation, a Paris-based agency made up of 33 democratic, market-based countries, including the U.S.
In the United States, which has developed a formula to approximate its undocumented population, there are an estimated 11.1 million illegal immigrants out of a total of 42 million immigrants. That gives the country both the largest immigrant population and the largest illegal-immigrant population in the world.
There are 2 million to 4 million illegal immigrants living in the European Union, according to a 2008 European Commission study.
In different parts of the world, the nationalities of the migrants change, but the public backlash and political pressures to step up enforcement are similar.
In Washington, lawmakers are mired in a years-long stalemate over how â€“ or whether â€“ to reform the nationâ€™s immigration laws. Recently, that discussion has been overtaken by calls for increased border security.
Amid that debate, Arizona drew international attention this spring when Republican Gov. Jan Brewer signed into law what is commonly known as Senate Bill 1070, which seeks to criminalize illegal immigration and enlist police in helping to enforce federal immigration laws.
Those same struggles also are playing out across the world. Europe, particularly, has increasingly viewed illegal immigration with alarm. With unemployment high and voters identifying immigration as a top concern, politicians are emboldened to crack down:
- In France, President Nicolas Sarkozy in August ordered the destruction of several hundred illegal-immigrant camps because of concerns over crime and public-health issues. As a result, more than 1,200 Roma Gypsies were expelled. The deportations have been condemned by the European Parliament, the European Unionâ€™s 736-member elected assembly.
- In Britain, the coalition government led by Conservative Party Prime Minister David Cameron has imposed a cap on immigrants from outside the EU. Cameron says he wants to reduce net immigration from the hundreds of thousands who arrived yearly under Labor Party rule to fewer than 100,000.
Immigration issues also influence how those politicians fare at the ballot box, both in the U.S. and abroad:
- Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., almost lost his partyâ€™s presidential nomination in 2008 because of his support for immigration reform.
- In Sweden, where a sniper targeting immigrants has been on the loose since October 2009, members of the far-right anti-immigrant Sweden Democrats in September won 20 seats in the countryâ€™s 349-member Parliament. The party, which grew out of Swedenâ€™s neo-Nazi skinhead subculture, effectively capitalized on rising resentment toward Muslim immigrants to win its first-ever foothold in the assembly. Its electoral success has shaken Swedenâ€™s longtime reputation as one of the most friendly and accommodating nations toward immigrants.
Some observers suggest right-wing politicians pander to anti-immigrant feelings in times of economic distress to advance their own agendas and political careers.
â€?A lot of these extremist far-right groups employ the rhetoric of immigration but also are looking at a number of other key issues in terms of economies, public spending, the maintenance of the welfare state and other areas,â€? said Elizabeth Collett, an expert on European immigration at the nonpartisan Migration Policy Institute, who is based in Brussels, Belgium. â€?Immigration is often the more visible tool but not the only one.â€?
The trend among nations affected by illegal immigration is increased enforcement.
In the United States, a record number of agents patrol the nationâ€™s borders, particularly the southern boundary with Mexico. Lawmakers have spent billions of dollars to build fences along the Mexico border, install sophisticated monitoring equipment and deport record numbers of illegal immigrants.
Spain has had to contend with thousands of illegal immigrants washing up on its shores in leaky boats from Morocco and other poor countries in Africa. Likewise, Italy has struggled to control illegal immigrants pouring in from poorer Eastern European countries, as well as boatloads of Africans crossing the Mediterranean from Libya. Both Spain and Italy have offered multiple amnesty programs to regularize unauthorized migrants. But more recently, the two nations have taken tougher stances, with Spain investing in border security and Italy negotiating an agreement with Libya to intercept migrants on the high seas and return them to Libya.
The stepped-up enforcement, combined with the sagging economy, has led to a drop in the numbers of people entering some countries illegally.
In the United States, 850,000 illegal immigrants entered the country annually from March 2000 to March 2005 when the economy was booming, according to the Pew Hispanic Center, a research organization in Washington, D.C. From March 2007 to March 2009, when the economy cratered, that number fell to 300,000 a year.
In Europe, illegal-immigrant apprehensions fell nearly 40 percent the first quarter of this year compared with the first quarter of last year, according to Frontex, a European Union agency in charge of controlling illegal immigration.
But cracking down on illegal immigration in one country often just shifts the problem to another. Spain and Italy have been successful in shutting down the flow from Africa, but now illegal immigration is on the rise to the east in Greece.
Likewise in Arizona, many illegal immigrants left for other states after Brewer signed SB1070. And Arizona became ground zero for illegal border crossers when security was tightened in California and Texas in the 1990s.
â€?Immigration officers use the analogy of squeezing a balloon,â€? Collett said. â€?If you shut down one area, it opens up somewhere else.â€?
Immigration moves in step with the economy: It rises when the economy is strong and drops when it is weak.
Today, with high unemployment in most developed nations, there are no jobs for immigrants, so they stay home and wait to seek work in wealthier nations.
â€?You can try the best as you can to close borders,â€? the International Organization for Migrationâ€™s Chauzy said. â€?But the demand for services, especially cheap services, is still there, and because they (immigrants) have no way to come legally, they will basically use the backdoor.â€?
The challenge for governments is to find ways to manage illegal immigration in a way that benefits their countries. . . . Illegal immigration will always be there because people will always find a way to get in no matter how hard you try to close the borders,â€? Chauzy said. â€?But you can minimize it. You manage it by opening the doors to the migrants you need or want.â€?
That may sound more simple than it is.
Most developed nations have implemented multiple measures to control immigration. Yet completely effective solutions remain elusive.
Following the money
Immigrants typically move, legally or illegally, in search of better jobs and more opportunities. For example:
- In the United States, annual per capita income is $47,240, according to the World Bank. In neighboring Mexico, the country that sends the largest number of illegal immigrants to the U.S., per capita income is $8,920.
- In Spain, most illegal immigrants come from Morocco. The distance between Spain and Morocco across the Strait of Gibraltar is less than 12 miles. But the disparity between incomes in the two countries is huge. Spainâ€™s per capita income is $31,870. In Morocco, itâ€™s $2,790