IMMIGRATION HELPS DEFINE OUR DEMOCRACY BY AINSLEE PRECIADO @ UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA- LOS ANGELES
The immigration issue is a highly debated topic in the world today. People are moving from their homes for a myriad of reasons including but not limited to economic and health problems, wars and famine and other reasons linked to the human spirit of survival. Since historical times, early Europeans like the Portuguese and Spaniards were known for their navigation skills and continents like the Americas and Australia were discovered. The resulting effect was the this discovery brought forward immigration of many Europeans and consequent prosperity for their home countries and the exploitation of the new lands of their natural resources and labor. The legacies of this immigration forms the basis of the immigration issue today.
The immigrant phenomenon that we are experiencing today is not in any way new or that we are seeing the last of it. It is even more pronounced today due to improved technology, ease of travel and conflict so that instead of a trickle of people, it is happening en masse. Two hundred years ago it happened and it was seen as a noble thing. I strongly believe that the noble reasons then are still valid today and the claim to respect “Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” on the U.S. Declaration of Independence should be recognized as the three unalienable rights that immigrants aim to obtain as well. When people are cornered by circumstances and is at the risk of death, the most natural reaction is to escape and survive. This is an innate reaction found in people; if you cannot fight you flee. Whether it’s good or bad, moving to survive is normality.
Every coin has two sides. For the country receiving immigrants like Europe today, it is not necessarily a bad thing as these people provide labor and the young will most likely provide a backbone to the future prosperity of Europe. Today the world is a global village and the earlier we accept this the more we will be devoid of racism and other negative ‘isms. Anti immigrant groups often forget the innumerable advantages the immigrants bring to their countries. Immigrants create a market for products they consume in their new communities. However, for others it is true that immigrants take up then scarce jobs available and therefore are seen as competitors and a threat to the social fabric. Studies show however that immigrants take the unwanted menial jobs and governments are also not keen to extend their social welfare benefits to the new immigrants. This work is left to charities, informal social and religious groups and non governmental organizations.
The other side of the coin is that for the immigrant’s home country, a void is left behind especially for the trained, experienced and skilled. Due to the lure of the dollar, engineers, researchers and teachers will flock to the west leaving behind countries with nobody to lift them out of poverty and disease. This has major negative consequences for the developing economies that spent a lot of money to train these people only for them to immigrate and work in developed countries. Today the same countries that suffered from the brain drain are now prospering from the money that the immigrants send back home. This is the irony of immigration. In Kenya for example, foreign remittances from the immigrants make a big percentage of foreign currency earnings, almost equal to the top earning tourism sector. Immigration also helps people to appreciate and live with other cultures. No community can say it is progressive if it cannot protect the weak and disadvantaged. As long as there is unequal distribution of resources in the world then people will move in search of better lives.
Brexit has come about with British citizens against the accommodation of immigrants in Europe. Efforts to stabilize the source of refugees and immigrants should be increased so that people can prosper economically. This is the ideal that we wish for, however utopian. Is is the ideal that the United Nations cherishes and strives for. As citizens, we need to require more top-down accountability and remember that less than 200 years ago the tide was going in a different direction and this can happen again.