Sunday, February 19, 2017

A Couple Thoughts on Immigration

This is one of those random thoughts that has been bouncing around my head for years now, and that I probably should have blogged about a long time ago.  But since immigration has been becoming more and more of an issue these days, (see this Washington Post article: North Carolina needed 6,500 farm workers. Only 7 Americans stuck it out.)  I guess now is as good as time as any to write down my two cents.

I've got a couple different observations

1) Every Country in the World Thinks They Have an Immigration Problem

Sometimes Americans tend to think that our immigration problem is a unique failure of our government.
But in fact, no country in the world has secure borders.
In every country I've lived in, illegal immigration has been a huge political issue.

I say "political issue" because it may be debatable whether or not illegal immigration is actually a real problem in all of these countries.  But it is always perceived as a huge problem.

In Japan, the media constantly carried stories of immigrants who either came to Japan illegally, or who came legally and overstayed their visa.  (Commonly these were Chinese, Malaysian, or Filipino.)

In Australia, immigrants and refugees are a huge issue.  Perhaps their biggest political issue.  (Australians are constantly arguing about what to do about the boat people.  Whole political parties have been based around the issue).

In Cambodia, the Cambodians are constantly worried about all the Vietnamese immigrants.
In Thailand, the Thais are constantly worried all the Cambodian immigrants.

This observation has lead me to two other conclusions namely:

2) Secure Borders are a Myth

No country has completely secure boarder.  Not even island countries (like Japan and Australia) and not even small countries (like Vietnam and Cambodia) and...

3) Illegal Immigration is a Political Football

Back in 2014, there was a little incident in this part of the world that gave me some interesting perspective.
You may recall there was a military coup in Thailand.
Now, the Thais had been complaining about illegal Cambodian immigrants for years, but the new Military Junta in Thailand decided it was going to do something about it.  There was a huge crackdown on Cambodian workers in Thailand.  Many were rounded up and deported.  Many others fled.
The resulting impact on Thailand's economy was felt immediately.  Construction projects ground to a halt in Bangkok as all the workers had been deported.
The government immediately had to reverse course, and start processing re-entry visas for most of the Cambodian workers it had just deported.  (New York Times Article HERE).

This made me realize what a political issue illegal immigration actually is.  The Military Junta in Thailand was new and politically inexperienced, so they didn't realize that complaining about illegal Cambodian immigration was something that the Thai politicians only did to get votes.  Nobody who knew anything about how the economy worked actually intended to do anything about it, but it was a reliable campaign issue to get people to vote for you.

I suspect it's the same in many countries.  Politicians will always campaign on the illegal immigration issue, but the issue only exists for them to get votes.  Most experienced politicians know that in reality its impossible to do anything about illegal immigration, but its a reliable issue that always gets the public riled up and tricks them into voting for you.

Link of the Day
Noam Chomsky's recorded address to the United National Peace Conference, 7-24-2010

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