Debunking some of the myths revolving around migration

##Randy Stapilus
##Randy Stapilus

The many bits and pieces floating through the mediascape and political world about immigration carry a feeling of uncertainty.

What do the pieces really add up to? We’re regularly harangued about this crisis or that, but what’s the larger perspective?

So often, after all, we need to know how something works, or at least is intended to work, to understand whether we’d got a real problem here, or something solvable, or instead just an uncomfortable part of the real world we have to live with.

The recent book “How Migration Really Works” — by academic Hein de Haas, who has devoted his career to studying the realities of migration — addresses exactly this. It is not an ideological polemic.

His views are not designed to give particular comfort to any place on the political spectrum. But they also make a surprising amount of real world sense.

Here’s a list of propositions drawn from some the chapter titles, some of which will appeal to the left and others to the right:

- “Migration is at an all-time high”

- “The world is facing a refugee crisis”

- “Development in poor countries will reduce migration”

- “Immigrants steal jobs and drive down wages”

- “Immigration lifts all boats”

- “Immigrant integration has failed”

- “Immigration sends crime rates soaring”

Here’s what I left out: Every one of those chapter titles also describes each of these ideas as a myth, and de Haas does an effective job of demolishing all of them.

Well, nearly all. I had minor quibbles in some places. But overall, his case appears to be solid.

What causes human migration, specifically from distant points to places like the United States?

Did you know that our country and the nations of western Europe share magnet status with much of the Middle East and Southeast Asia as well? And migrants to these lands are usually driven to travel primarily by long-term conditions in their countries of origin, and not extreme poverty or emergency, de Haas agues.

Traveling at a distance usually takes planning and financial resources. As a result, out-migration is relatively low where economic and other conditions are especially weak.

It rises in the case of moderate prosperity, then slackens when higher-level prosperity is achieved. Rather than being effectively expelled from their home lands, most are attracted by better economic prospects in the destination countries.

One reason the level of immigration is high now in the United States is that our economy is so strong. Immigration was far lower after the big crash of 2008.

De Haas posits too that strong border security actually leads to more immigration and causes many more people who do enter the country, legally or not, to stay rather than face tougher re-entry prospects. He argues a more fluid border leads to more of a revolving-door effect.

There’s much more, all backed by extensive studies. It’s well worth reviewing.

If you’re open to thinking about migration in a serious way, as opposed to simply enjoying the emotional trigger, “How Migration Really Works” would more than justify the investment.


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