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There are two sides to the immigration issue

"Nevertheless, just as I don't think the world's problems can be solved without addressing the population question, I also don't think they can be solved if we don't address the more traditional questions of wealth and political power."&emdash;James Sinnamon, in defending Naomi Klein against criticism

I agree with James on this issue. Yes, I am angered with the liberal/left's collusion with the neo-liberal agenda of open immigration, of its misuse of the hackneyed phrase "solidarity" to justify support for importing cheap migrant labour to crush the living standards of local workers and despoil our national environment and multiply the ecological footprint of the migrants themselves. But I am also frustrated by the blindness of the red neck wing of the American anti immigration movement that takes no responsibility for the factors which PUSH migrants out of their third world countries.

These countries have been ravished by decades of iniquitous trade agreements that have extorted resources from them at bargain basement prices, causing them to forfeit self-sufficiency, destroy natural capital, and strip social services to pay off debt charges that the IMF dictates must be paid. We need to look no further than Mexico to see what a trade agreement can do to destroy a rural economy. Where do these people go? Where do poor farmers and the ancillary small business workers destroyed by the US corporate invasion go? Where did the farmers of Britain go after the enclosure movement? We tend only to look at the "Pull" factor of better paying jobs in the factories of the Industrial Revolution, or the factories in America. But we conveniently forget that there is a whip behind these workers, who, if you interviewed them, never wanted to leave their families back home.

Stopping immigration successfully cannot simply be about keeping people "out". It has also got to be about giving people reasons to stay where they are. To me, that means scrapping these larcenous trade agreements, delivering restitution to developing nations for the ruin caused to their environments, and massive foreign aid tied to family planning. Closing our borders but not our backs, our eyes or our hearts to the world. Not for their sake. For our ours.

Because history shows that walls are at best a temporary remedy. We can't play King Kanute indefinitely to an unrelenting tide of desperate tens of millions. Currently, three percent of humanity is on the move, and we seem to have difficulty marshalling the resolution to deal with that traffic. Should that proportion rocket to even ten percent, it is doubtful that any border control will remain any more impregnable than the Maginot Line or the Great Wall of China was to the armies that by-passed them. Wake up, let's get realistic here.

Push, Pull. Two factors. Deal with both, or you are not dealing with the problem of immigration.

Tim Murray,
Quadra Island,BC

See also: Closing our borders can't mean turning our backs of 25 Oct 07

Comments

Tim wrote:

"But I am also frustrated by the blindness of the red neck wing of the American anti immigration movement that takes no responsibility for the factors which PUSH migrants out of their third world countries.

"These countries have been ravished by decades of iniquitous trade agreements that have extorted resources from them at bargain basement prices, causing them to forfeit self-sufficiency, destroy natural capital, and strip social services to pay off debt charges that the IMF dictates must be paid."

This may hold true in some cases, but it's certainly not correct that everyone attached to the "red neck wing of the American anti immigration movement" supports the globalist "free" trade agenda. Patrick Buchanan, for example, has railed extensively against "free" trade and remains an ardent advocate of economic nationalism.

As for mitigating the immigration "push" factor, American immigration reform advocate Roy Beck noted in his book, Re-Charting America's Future (PDF 1.3MB), that:

Any serious assessment of the world situation will show that even under the very best of scenarios and the most extravagant aid possible, standards of living in underdeveloped nations cannot become competitive with advanced nations for many decades, according to professor Antonio Golini of the Institute for Population Research in Italy. Thus, the immigration push factors will remain in place. If the advanced nations were to relax immigration controls until the push factors disappeared, their populations likely would multiply several times over.

The prognosis is even more dismal, according to Professor H.J. Hoffman-Novotny of Zurich: If living conditions by some miracle did rise high enough in underdeveloped nations so that their residents would stop fleeing, the world environment would be devastated by the additional resource consumption and pollution.

Prospects for such economic success, however, are unlikely, in the dark view of New York Times correspondent Malcolm Browne: Anybody who actually thinks foreign aid [or in this case, fairer trade] can soon eliminate "push" factors in the third world doesn't know the hopelessness overpopulation has created. "The third world is not a 'developing' culture. It is a putrefying 'state' of existence perpetually in the grip of a plague deadlier than anthrax: the burgeoning human race... For the past dozen years, I have devoted most of my reporting to science... I have become convinced that until population growth can be controlled, all other environmental problems will remain insoluble."

Superb criticisms. I am definitely not for relaxing immigration controls. I am for tightening them. I am merely arguing that the dam will not hold unless we try and relieve the pressure that is coming at us and will come at us in waves. We can triple our navy and arm the coast guard, build electronic fences, turn our coast lines into what our version of Hitler's Atlantic Wall but history tells me that all fortresses have limited capabilities. So then, while we are strenghtening our defences, forcing employers to pay decent wages etc. We ought to work on ways to reduce the push factors.

Now you introduce the dark view. These regions are so devastated by overpopulation that to "raise" their living standards by more consumption is environmentally untenable. But some would say that they had a living that was agreeable until the corporations and the trade agreements messed with it. That scrapping those agreements and giving the boot to the multinationals would be a step toward restitution rather than profligate consumerist bingng. Just to return to the level of living they had forty years ago would be an achievement for many Third World victims of free trade. But this process of reparations would indeed, take decades, and I certainly wouldn't leave our front door unlocked.

One point to remember in passing. First world countries, Canada, the United States, the UK and Australia, are also ecological basket cases from over population. When the oil runs out, analysts like Dale Pfeiffer speculate that fully one-third of North America's population will starve to death, as modern agriculture is utterly dependent on oil. Microbiologist Peter Salonious puts the figure at 95%, as intensive agriculture has completely depleted our soils.

One need not talk about water. Dark views, in other words, are not confined to developing countries.