The dilemma of immigration

As Americans and Canadians struggle with immigration policy it would be wise to remember people have been  migrating for millenia.  It has probably always been an emotional, stressful and sometimes traumatic event both for the migrants and for the hosts.

In North America we are all immigrants or descended from immigrants. My mother’s parents came from London and my father’s parents were United Empire Loyalists which means they moved to Canada from the United States during the American revolution.  Even the ancestors of our natives are believed to have come from Asia.  I heard the brother of a hereditary chief of a coastal Indian Band tell how in the early 1900s his family migrated down the coast from Alaska.

johnny_automatic_walkingImmigration policy is difficult because some people see immigrants as necessary and others see them as a threat.

Some Canadian business people want immigrants for cheap labor or to do work the rest of use won’t do. Others claim we need immigrants to keep the population up and worry that as we age there won’t be enough younger workers to pay our pensions.

Immigrants sometimes come as refugees and should be treated with compassion and understanding.  Recent immigrants want their family and friends to come.

But immigrants are also a threat.  They work for less money and may be seen as taking jobs.  Sometimes they come with different values and religions.  A few of them (or their children) may want to convert us.  In the past immigrants have conquered their hosts frequently with violence.  When the Europeans conquered North America it is estimated 90 per cent of the native population died mostly from smallpox and measles.

Many  immigrants come for economic reasons and that too is now a threat.  Us North Americans have been very efficient at consuming our natural resources.  We still have a lot but what is left takes more energy to harvest and our economy is in trouble.  We may still be better off than the rest of the world but we are feeling the effects of an economic slowdown.  The more immigrants the smaller the piece of pie for everyone.

So there you have it.  Immigration policy is very difficult.  Sometimes there are no acceptable answers.

One Response

  1. Sure, immigration reduces the wage rate. But careful analysis shows that in the US it is not the major cause.

    What is?

    The shipping container. Importers can now import goods from around the world, including China, at a transport cost of ONE PER CENT of the value of the contents of the container. Negligible cost. This has caused a revolution in manufacturing, and massive changes in the logistics chain.

    Example. Wal-Mart exists because of container logistics. It orders a container to be filled with specified goods at a certain location in China for a specific shop in the USA. The container is carried within fourteen days to that shop, avoiding warehouses. The goods are not handled again until they are unpacked at the Wal-Mart shop, put on sale, and sold within three days.

    Even if an American company can manufacture as cheap as China, and many can, they are cut out of the logistics chain, They have to deliver to a host of different Wal-Marts around the country.

    As a consequence, and not because of immigration, wage rates in the US have fallen to $4 an hour, from the highest standard of living in the world 20 years ago.

    To get on top of this, the US manufacturers have to get on top of the shipping container supply chain system. To date many prefer to go under than change.

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