Immigration: Let My People Go and Come!

Published on 12th September 2006

Africa is experiencing an important development in migratory flows. These movements occur not only in the continent, but also towards Europe, North America and some Middle East countries. They are either voluntary as a result of pull factors in destination countries or involuntary due to push factors in countries of origin. According to the AU Experts’ Meeting on Migration and Development (April 2006), of the 150 million migrants in the world, more than 50 million are estimated to be Africans. The management of migration has become one of the critical challenges for states in the new millennium.

The Canary Islands’ regional president, Adan Martin, has termed the influx of African immigrants in the Islands as Spain’s worst humanitarian crisis since its civil war. A total of 930 would-be migrants, who risked their lives in a dangerous sea journey from West Africa, arrived in the Canaries Islands just 24 hours up through the morning of September 6.

What is all this hullabaloo about immigrants? The Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi says that European nations should pay 10 billion Euros a year to Africa to help it stop migrants seeking a better life in Europe. Should Africa be bribed to be stagnant? Spain wants the European Union to provide more aid for policing the seas. A naval vigilance mission run by Frontex, the European Border agency, appears to need financial and other support. Is Immigration turning into a new industry for harvesting the Euro? 

We can learn something from America. Americans are in the first place immigrants, dispatched to the region by push factors in Britain. The country’s door was later open to many of those desiring to be free. Between 1840 and 1940, almost 40 million people came ashore and began a new life. In 1900, 10 million people of foreign birth resided in the United States. Out of a total population of 76 million at the turn of the century, 26 million were the children of foreign-born parents. The immigrants came from Britain, Ireland, Germany, Italy, Eastern Europe, the Balkans, Russia, Mexico and various parts of Asia. America was not the child of one racial or cultural strain, but the offspring of many.

The Irish lodged there to escape famine. The Germans sought refuge from military conscription in Bismarck’s Prussia. The Chinese arrived to build railroads, sending most of their wages back to china to help family and relatives who faced starvation. The Jews of Poland and Russia came to escape religious persecution and pogroms.  These people over time, dispersed across the immense American continent. The 1970’s saw a wave of migration to the United States from thousands of Vietnamese who faced drowning, starvation, and attacks by pirates in order to escape from the Communist regime. These people rose from rags to riches as they made a new life for themselves and their children in a matter of a few years.

If the Americans, Chinese, Greeks, Poles, Asians, Germans, Jews, British, Russians and other nationalities at one time immigrated and justified the act, why are they now demonizing it? The inscription on America’s Statue of Liberty reads: Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breath free… I lift my lamp beside the golden door.” Why are nations, America included, suddenly barring the “golden door”?

Today’s immigrants are fundamentally no different from those who did so a hundred years ago save that their predecessors worked in a relatively free and open society and could expect to advance themselves economically. The latter are branded “illegal” and have no future to look to. Their portion is fear and uncertainty of deportation.

The premise behind the concern that immigrants steal jobs away from locals is that there is only a finite amount of work to be done in the economy, therefore, a finite number of jobs to be filled. If an immigrant gains employment, he does so only by displacing one who previously held that job. But there is always more work to be done as long as scarcity exists. Immigrants are not tree stumps. Their innovativeness leads to more jobs. The fact that they can brave rough seas shows that they are strong enough to work.

Does Immigrant labor cause wages to go down consequently lowering the standard of living? Sellers often make their product more attractive to buyers by offering a lower price. For immigrants to find employers, they have to offer themselves at lower wages. If locals are to keep their jobs, they have to match the lower wages. This leads to lower costs of production and subsequent rise in profits. As employers expand their production, prices of consumer goods decline as a result of businesses competing for consumers to buy their products. The consuming public ultimately benefits from cheaper labor costs, leaving it with extra money for use in other products or activities.

Critics also say that if large numbers of immigrants are permitted entry into a region, it will be difficult to absorb them because of the ensuing language and cultural differences. Factors that hamper economic progress and cultural assimilation are: long and expensive bureaucratic tapes that make it difficult to begin small businesses and enterprises; heavy tax burdens that destroy savings and investment incentives; welfare programs that breed dependency upon the state; rule of law that is partial; non observance of property rights and interfering with voluntary exchange.

O that a free world would come! A world in which men trade with whomever they want; wherever they want. A world in which men travel and live wherever they find it most advantageous and pleasurable. A world in which people spend or invest their money in the part of the world that will be beneficial to them. A world in which there is neither immigration  restriction nor emigration barrier. A world in which goods move freely from one country to another without tariffs or quotas. A world in which human population is turned into a resource instead of a curse.

 Give me liberty or I die!

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