author: nick giokas | contributor
“Much of the rhetoric from the far right has been overtly xenophobic, but in response the left has taken on a “bleeding heart” line in which any limitations to family reunification or refugees are painted as negative.”
Probably the most controversial and most misunderstood topic in political discourse these days is immigration. So, at the outset, I think we ought to clarify some facts: namely, the economic outcomes of immigration, and the cultural context of it. Furthermore, we ought to stop looking at the most extreme versions of each side’s rhetoric and try and parse out common ground.
So, first off all, what needs to be addressed is the fact that, economically speaking, immigration is a massive net benefit for the receiving country. See, on a base level, most developed economies (i.e. Canada, the US, etc.) are, when viewed from long-run macroeconomic equilibrium, at a near constant labour shortage. See, in most developed economies one of the major issues we are beginning to see is that our birth rates and general population growth just aren’t quite meeting expectations. The numbers we need in given fields to reach the potential economic output we have on aggregate due to available natural resources and technological advancement suggest just that. This means, on a broad level, that immigration is practically necessary for most developed economies to increase their economic growth.
However, what also needs to be addressed is that while immigration is required for most developed economies to increase their economic growth, there is a particular kind of immigration that reaches this net benefit most easily. In immigration policy, there are usually two groups of immigrants: economic and non economic. Economic immigrants are those who have careers or career paths lined up in the country they wish to immigrate to. These kinds of immigrants are an almost immediate boon to the economy as the turnaround time for net benefit is largely minimal. On both the left and right, you will largely see positive consensus on these immigrants (barring Trump or Sanders-esque populists). It is the non-economic immigrants that the question “how many can we support?” starts being bandied about.
See, non-economic immigration (i.e. family members being reunited or refugees) can have a negative economic impact in the short run, as their turnaround time is much longer. Resources in any given economy are scarce, and while it may seem callous, the line has to be drawn somewhere. Much of the rhetoric from the far right has been overtly xenophobic, but in response, the left has taken on a “bleeding heart” line in which any limitations to family reunification or refugees are painted as negative.
The unfortunate side effect of having limited resources is that, as much as the left may try to argue otherwise, when a greater number of non-economic immigrants are taken in than resources allow, there is an inevitable cultural friction and cycle of poverty. See, non-economic immigrants require far more resources and funds to settle into their new homes, and when they do not have the necessary funds, one of two things happen that lead to the same result: either the given government dumps them with those of a similar circumstance, or they find their way there independently as those communities garner the greatest amount of support for them. In the end, these people who immigrated for a better future will be stuck in a circumstance that breeds resentment and animosity both toward their hosts and their hosts toward them.
In essence, while the far-left and far-right have used extreme rhetoric, if one listens to those closer to the center, the sad fact is that, especially when it comes to immigration, they talk past one another. While the right wing often takes a “nation first” rhetorical approach, it is far from uncommon to hear and see those of a conservative bent to voice their concerns over resource allocation rather than simple callousness. If one digs past the headlines, most conservatives aren’t against immigration wholesale, but simply want immigrants to have a smooth transition for both their, and our, benefit. Similarly on the left, many focus more so on the immigrant’s point of view while not abandoning the needs of the nation. They, rightly so, view immigration as a necessary aspect of modern life and want what’s best for the nation as a whole.
The worst part of the current political climate is that rather than trying to figure out where we can reach compromise, and recognising neither side is completely out in left field with their intentions, we have let the extremists hijack the dialogue and dominate the conversation. So, if we are going to start talking about immigration, we may as well start here.