Living With Immigration

It seems to me….

Ours is an open and accepting society and has historically provided an avenue for lawful immigration to all those willing to accept the responsibilities of citizenship.” ~ Spencer Bachus[1].

The entire world is in an age of mass migration. As the percentage of immigrants approaches approximately 22 percent, the percentage of right-wing populist voters has risen to 50 percent. Hostility to immigration has become a core theme of every populist political party.

In the past three or four decades, western societies have seen large influxes of people from different lands and cultures. In 1970, foreign-born residents composed less than 5 percent of the U.S. population; today they are about 14 percent. The rise is even sharper in most European countries, home to 76 million international migrants who most recently have come from Africa and the Middle East. Austria, for example, took in almost 100,000 immigrants adding 1 percent to its population in 2015 alone.

This migration became a refugee crisis in 2016[2] as, worldwide, nearly 1 in 100 people were displaced from their homes, the highest level since following World War II. 34,000 people are forcibly displaced everyday due to conflict and persecution with 54 percent of refugees worldwide coming from only three countries: Afghanistan, Somalia, and Syria. About 6 in 10 Syrians, an estimated 2.5 million people, are currently displaced. Children make up more than half of all refuges resulting in half of all primary-age refugee children not being in school. In just the past two years, 1.3 million people fleeing conflict and persecution have traveled through Greece in search of safety in Europe with some 62,000 of those refugees currently remaining stranded in that country.

It also must be considered that while a refugee almost always can be an immigrant, an immigrant is not necessarily a refugee. It is difficult to understand how anyone cannot be sympathetic and accepting to someone fearing for their and their family’s safety; fleeing their homes to escape persecution or death, leaving behind all they possess and everyone they knew. The insensitivity and lack of empathy of those wanting to shut the door to those in such need is beyond understanding.

Change can be unsettling. For most of human history, people have lived, worked, and died within a few miles of the place where they were born but, in recent decades, hundreds of millions of people from poorer countries have moved to wealthier ones. This reflects an economic reality. Rich countries have declining birthrates and need labor; poor countries have millions who seek better lives. But this produces anxiety, unease, and a cultural backlash apparent across the entire Western world.

Migration tends to be beneficial for both origin and destination societies and refugees should not be seen as a burden but as a potential resource[3]. It is the immigrant that as a percentage is the greater engine of change providing a high dynamic of innovation.  Possessing a different perspective, immigrants frequently are able to pursue a different direction than the native-born. Diversity always results in advances.

Most migration policies are, in fact, quite effective and immigration policies have become more liberal for most migrant groups over past decades. Immigration is not a flow that can be turned on and off like a tap. Modern immigration policies aim to influence the selection and timing of migration rather than volumes of migration. It is, however, often overestimated what migration policies can achieve as migration is driven by processes of economic development and social change – in both the origin and destination societies – that lie beyond the reach of those policies.

Economic migration is strongly driven by labor demand defying popular beliefs that it is an uncontrolled phenomenon largely driven by poverty and violence in origin countries. The idea that climate change will lead to mass migration to the West is equally unrealistic. Economic growth and improved education typically increases people’s capacities and aspirations to migrate. With many developing countries facing increasing levels of unemployment among university graduates, it is therefore no coincidence that prominent emigrant countries such as Mexico, Morocco, and Turkey are middle-income countries.

There is an urgent need to see migration as an intrinsic part of economic growth and societal change rather than primarily as a problem. Studies have shown it is predominantly businesses, the wealthy, and the upper-middle classes who benefit from migration – apart from the migrants themselves. Most migrants do jobs that local populations shun or for which they lack the skills. Contrary to generally unsupported ideological beliefs, several studies indicate that while migration’s effect on economic growth is rather small, it tends to be positive.

The magnitude of migration is far too low to offset the effects of population aging. The actual problem might therefore not be so much how to prevent migrants from coming but how to attract them.

Countries such as Turkey, Pakistan, Lebanon, Iran, Ethiopia, and Jordan currently host the largest refugee populations. Western societies, by contrast, receive a comparatively low number of refugees – and that percentage has declined in recent years.

One of the paradoxes of liberalization is that the political desire for less migration is fundamentally incompatible with the trend towards economic liberalization and the desire to maximize economic growth. The erosion of labor rights, the rise of flexible work, and the privatization of formerly state-owned companies in recent decades have significantly increased the demand for migrant labor in Europe. The heated migration debates in Britain and the U.S. – both strongly liberalized market economies facing persistently high levels of immigration – are powerful illustrations of this liberalization paradox.

Immigrants are important for a very important reason: jobs. Immigrants create companies at a much higher rate than native Americans; e.g., most Silicon Valley companies had at least one immigrant as their founder. The majority of refugees (and I’m intentionally differentiating between refugees and immigrants) are women and children fleeing to escape death and persecution – anyone with compassion and empathy would want to open our doors to these people. For Christians, it is not an option – it is something they should consider to be a moral imperative.

The U.S. has more immigrants than any other country in the world[4]. Today, more than 40 million people living in the U.S., about 13.4 percent of the U.S. population, were born in another country accounting for about one-fifth of the world’s migrants in 2015. Today’s immigrant share however remains below the record 14.8 percent in 1890 when 9.2 million immigrants lived in the U.S.

Roughly half (46 percent) of the nation’s 43.2 million immigrants live in just three states: California (25 percent), Texas (11 percent), and New York (10 percent). California had the largest immigrant population of any state in 2015, at 10.7 million. Texas and New York had about 4.5 million immigrants each.

Most immigrants (76 percent) are legally in the country. In 2015, 44 percent were naturalized U.S. citizens, 27 percent of immigrants were permanent residents, and 5 percent were temporary residents. Another 24 percent of all immigrants were undocumented immigrants. Mexican unauthorized immigrants are more likely to be long-term residents of the U.S. As of 2014, 78 percent had lived in the U.S. for 10 years or more while only 7 percent had been in the country for less than five years.

The number of apprehensions at the U.S.-Mexico border has sharply decreased over the past decade from more than 1 million in fiscal 2006 to 408,870 in fiscal 2016. Specific concerns over Mexican undocumented immigrants is equally unfounded as the number leaving in recent years has exceeded the number arriving. In fiscal year 2016, more non-Mexicans than Mexicans were apprehended at U.S. borders with apprehensions of Central Americans at the border exceeding that of Mexicans for only the second time on record.

Dispelling any ideological biases, undocumented immigrants are younger and consequently have lower medical expenses than native Americans. The majority are single males so educational expenses are less. Many pay into Social Security but are not eligible to receive any payments. They have a much lower crime rate than native Americans as they know they will be deported if even questioned by the police. There have been several studies showing they are a significant financial benefit to our economy. The need for border security to prevent smuggling and other criminal activity is unquestioned but Trump’s wall is totally pointless. Money for his wall would be much better spent on higher priority items such as infrastructure or environment.

A majority of Americans have positive views about immigrants. Six-in-ten Americans (63 percent) say immigrants strengthen the country “because of their hard work and talents”, while just over a quarter (27 percent) say immigrants burden the country by taking jobs, housing, and health care. Nearly two-thirds of Americans (64 percent) say an increasing number of people from different races, ethnic groups, and nationalities in the U.S. make the country a better place in which to live; fewer (29 percent) think growing diversity in the country does not make much difference, and just 5 percent think it makes it worse[5].

In October 2016, 54 percent of registered voters said the U.S. does not have a responsibility to accept refugees from Syria while 41 percent believe it does. Nearly three-quarters of Republicans (74 percent) view the refugee exodus leaving countries such as Iraq and Syria as a major threat to the well-being of the U.S compared to just 40 percent of Democrats with similar views. Among Democratic voters in the 2016 Presidential election, just 40 percent of Clinton supporters and 34 percent of Sanders supporters viewed refugee migration as a major threat.

The Trump administration has a politically motivated anti-immigration agenda. In addition to ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program for undocumented young people who came to the U.S. as children, it also is terminating the Temporary Protected Status program for many temporary immigrates who have legally lived in the U.S. for extended periods, many of whom have deep roots in this country, have children who are citizens, are well integrated into society, and are essential workers in critical industries. The administration’s apparent misguided intent is to slash legal immigration, drive out all current immigrants, keep out refugees, and ban Muslims.

Eventually, Western societies will be able to adjust to this new feature of globalization. The majority of young people in both Europe and the U.S. deeply value the benefits of diversity and seek to live in an open and connected world. Unfortunately, this perspective is not shared by many older entrenched conservatives. Hopefully, the many advantages from a positive immigration policy will be recognized and the nation’s doors opened in welcome.

That’s what I think, what about you?

[1] Spencer Thomas Bachus III is a former U.S. Representative for the state of Alabama who served as a ranking member and chairman of the House Financial Services Committee.

[2] Karakoulaki, Marianna. A Refugee for Hope, On Wisconsin, Volume 118, Number 2, p27.

[3] de Haas, Hein. Myths of Migration: Much of What We Think We Know Is Wrong, Der Spiegel,, 21 March 2017.

[4] López, Gustavo, and Kristen Bialik. Key Findings About U.S. Immigrants, Pew Research Center,, 3 May 2017.

[5]In First Month, Views of Trump Are Already Strongly Felt, Deeply Polarized, Pew Research,, 16 February, 2017.

About lewbornmann

Lewis J. Bornmann has his doctorate in Computer Science. He became a volunteer for the American Red Cross following his retirement from teaching Computer Science, Mathematics, and Information Systems, at Mesa State College in Grand Junction, CO. He previously was on the staff at the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus, Stanford University, and several other universities. Dr. Bornmann has provided emergency assistance in areas devastated by hurricanes, floods, and wildfires. He has responded to emergencies on local Disaster Action Teams (DAT), assisted with Services to Armed Forces (SAF), and taught Disaster Services classes and Health & Safety classes. He and his wife, Barb, are certified operators of the American Red Cross Emergency Communications Response Vehicle (ECRV), a self-contained unit capable of providing satellite-based communications and technology-related assistance at disaster sites. He served on the governing board of a large international professional organization (ACM), was chair of a committee overseeing several hundred worldwide volunteer chapters, helped organize large international conferences, served on numerous technical committees, and presented technical papers at numerous symposiums and conferences. He has numerous Who’s Who citations for his technical and professional contributions and many years of management experience with major corporations including General Electric, Boeing, and as an independent contractor. He was a principal contributor on numerous large technology-related development projects, including having written the Systems Concepts for NASA’s largest supercomputing system at the Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley. With over 40 years of experience in scientific and commercial computer systems management and development, he worked on a wide variety of computer-related systems from small single embedded microprocessor based applications to some of the largest distributed heterogeneous supercomputing systems ever planned.
This entry was posted in Afghanistan, Bernie Sanders, Britain, California, California, Central America, Christian, Clinton, DACA, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, Diversity, Employment, Employment, Employment, Ethiopia, Europe, Europe, Globalization, Greece, Greece, Illegal, Immigrant, Immigration, Iran, Iran, Iraq, Iraq, Jobs, Jobs, Jordan, Lebanon, Mexico, Mexico, Mexico, Middle East, Middle-East, Migration, Morocco, Muslim, Muslim, New York, Pakistan, Populism, Refugee, Somalia, Syria, Temporary Protected Status, Texas, Texas, Trump, Turkey, Turkey, World War II and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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