The Quiet Flight of Muslims From France

Of interest. Haven’t found any comparable data for Canada but will check the 2021 census data when it comes out (which will have religious affiliation data):

France’s wounded psyche is the invisible character in every one of Sabri Louatah’s novels and the hit television series he wrote. He speaks of his “sensual, physical, visceral love” for the French language and of his attachment to his hometown in southeastern France, bathed in its distinctive light. He closely monitors the campaign for the upcoming presidential elections.

But Mr. Louatah does all of that from Philadelphia, the city that he began considering home after the 2015 attacks in France by Islamist extremists, which killed scores of people and deeply traumatized the country. As sentiments hardened against all French Muslims, he no longer felt safe there. One day, he was spat on and called, “Dirty Arab.”

“It’s really the 2015 attacks that made me leave because I understood they were not going to forgive us,” said Mr. Louatah, 38, the grandson of Muslim immigrants from Algeria. “When you live in a big Democratic city on the East Coast, you’re more at peace than in Paris, where you’re deep in the cauldron.”

Ahead of elections in April, President Emmanuel Macron’s top three rivals — who are expected to account for nearly 50 percent of the vote, according to polls — are all running anti-immigrant campaigns that fan fears of a nation facing a civilizational threat by invading non-Europeans. The issue is top of their agenda, even though France’s actual immigration lags behind that of most other European countries.

The problem barely discussed is emigration. For years, France has lost highly educated professionals seeking greater dynamism and opportunity elsewhere. But among them, according to academic researchers, is a growing number of French Muslims who say that discrimination was a strong push factor and that they felt compelled to leave by a glass ceiling of prejudice, nagging questions about their security and a feeling of not belonging.

The outflow has gone unremarked upon by politicians and the news media even as researchers say it shows France’s failure to provide a path for advancement for even the most successful of its largest minority group, a “brain drain” of those who could have served as models of integration.

“These people end up contributing to the economy of Canada or Britain,” said Olivier Esteves, a professor at the University of Lille’s center on political science, public law and sociology, which surveyed 900 French Muslim émigrés and conducted in-depth interviews with 130 of them. “France is really shooting itself in the foot.”

French Muslims, estimated at 10 percent of the population, occupy a strangely outsize place in the campaign — even if their actual voices are seldom heard. It is not only an indication of the lingering wounds inflicted by the attacks of 2015 and 2016, which killed hundreds, but also of France’s long struggle over identity issues and its unresolved relationship with its former colonies.

Source: The Quiet Flight of Muslims From France

Rich Countries Lure Health Workers From Low-Income Nations to Fight Shortages

The costs to source countries:

There are few nurses in the Zambian capital with the skills and experience of Alex Mulumba, who works in the operating room at a critical care hospital. But he has recently learned, through a barrage of social media posts and LinkedIn solicitations, that many faraway places are eager for his expertise, too — and will pay him far more than the $415 per month (including an $8 health risk bonus) he earns now.

Mr. Mulumba, 31, is considering those options, particularly Canada, where friends of his have immigrated and quickly found work. “You have to build something with your life,” he said.

Canada is among numerous wealthy nations, including the United States and United Kingdom, that are aggressively recruitingmedical workers from the developing world to replenish a health care work force drastically depleted by the Covid-19 pandemic. The urgency and strong pull from high-income nations — including countries like Germany and Finland, which had not previously recruited health workers from abroad — has upended migration patterns and raised new questions about the ethics of recruitment from countries with weak health systems during a pandemic.

“We have absolutely seen an increase in international migration,” said Howard Catton, the chief executive of the International Council of Nurses. But, he added, “The high, high risk is that you are recruiting nurses from countries that can least afford to lose their nurses.”

About 1,000 nurses are arriving in the United States each month from African nations, the Philippines and the Caribbean, said Sinead Carbery, president of O’Grady Peyton International, an international recruiting firm. While the United States has long drawn nurses from abroad, she said demand from American health care facilities is the highest she’s seen in three decades. There are an estimated 10,000 foreign nurses with U.S. job offers on waiting lists for interviews at American embassies around the world for the required visas.

Since the middle of 2020, the number of international nurses registering to practice in the United Kingdom has swelled, “pointing toward this year being the highest in the last 30 years in terms of numbers,” said James Buchan, a senior fellow with the Health Foundation, a British charity, who advises the World Health Organization and national governments on health worker mobility.

“There are 15 nurses in my unit and half have an application in process to work abroad,” said Mike Noveda, a senior neonatal nurse in the Philippines who has been temporarily reassigned to run Covid wards in a major hospital in Manila. “In six months, they will have left.”

As the pandemic enters its third year and infections from the Omicron variant surge around the world, the shortage of health workers is a growing concern just about everywhere. As many as 180,000 have died of Covid, according to the W.H.O. Others have burned out or quit in frustration over factors such as a lack of personal protective equipment. About 20 percent in the United States have left their jobs during the pandemic. The W.H.O. has recorded strikes and other labor action by health workers in more than 80 countries in the past year — the amount that would normally be seen in a decade. In both developing countries and wealthy ones, the depletion of the health work force has come at a cost to patient care.

European and North American countries have created dedicated immigration fast-tracks for health care workers, and have expedited processes to recognize foreign qualifications.

The British government introduced a “health and care visa”program in 2020, which targets and fast tracks foreign health care workers to fill staffing vacancies. The program includes benefits such as reduced visa costs and quicker processing.

Canada has eased language requirements for residency and has expedited the process of recognizing the qualifications of foreign-trained nurses. Japan is offering a pathway to residency for temporary aged-care workers. Germany is allowing foreign-trained doctors to move directly into assistant physician positions.

In 2010, the member states of the W.H.O. adopted a Global Code of Practice on the International Recruitment of Health Personnel, driven in part by an exodus of nurses and doctors from nations in sub-Saharan Africa ravaged by AIDS. African governments expressed frustration that their universities were producing doctors and nurses educated with public funds who were being lured away to the United States and Britain as soon as they were fully trained, for salaries their home countries could never hope to match.

The code recognizes the right of individuals to migrate but calls for wealthy nations to recruit through bilateral agreements, with the involvement of the health ministry in the country of origin.

In exchange for an organized recruitment of health workers, the destination country should supply support for health care initiatives designated by the source country. Destination countries are also supposed to offer “learn and return” in which health workers with new skills return home after a period of time.

But Mr. Catton, of the international nurses organization, said that was not the current pattern. “For nurses who are recruited, there is no intention for them to go back, often quite the opposite: They want to establish themselves in another country and bring their families to join them,” he said.

Zambia has an excess of nurses, on paper — thousands of graduates of nursing schools are unemployed, although a new government has pledged to hire 11,200 health workers this year. But it is veteran nurses such as Lillian Mwape, the director of nursing at the hospital where Mr. Mulumba works, who are most sought by recruiters.

“People are leaving constantly,” said Ms. Mwape, whose inbox is flooded with emails from recruiters letting her know how quickly she can get a visa to the United States.

The net effect, she said, “is that we are handicapped.”

“It is the most-skilled nurses that we lose and you can’t replace them,” Ms. Mwape said. “Now in the I.C.U. we might have four or five trained critical-care nurses, where we should have 20. The rest are general nurses, and they can’t handle the burden of Covid.”

Dr. Brian Sampa, a general practitioner in Lusaka, recently began the language testing that is the first step to emigrate to the United Kingdom. He is the head of a doctor’s union and vividly aware of how valuable physicians are in Zambia. There are fewer than 2,000 doctors working in the public sector — on which the vast majority of people are reliant — and 5,000 doctors in the entire country, he said. That works out to one doctor per 12,000 people; the W.H.O. recommends a minimum of one per 1,000.

Twenty Zambian doctors have died of Covid. In Dr. Sampa’s last job, he was the sole doctor in a district with 80,000 people, and he often spent close to 24 hours at a time in the operating theater doing emergency surgeries, he said.

The pandemic has left him dispirited about Zambia’s health system. He described days treating critically ill Covid patients when he searched a whole hospital to find only a single C-clamp needed to run oxygenation equipment. He earns slightly less than $1000 a month.

“Obviously, there are more pros to leaving than staying,” Dr. Sampa said. “So for those of us who are staying, it is just because there are things holding us, but not because we are comfortable where we are.”

The migration of health care workers — often from low-income nations to high-income ones — was growing well before the pandemic; it had increased 60 percent in the decade to 2016, said Dr. Giorgio Cometto, an expert on health work force issues who works with the W.H.O.

The Philippines and India have deliberately overproduced nurses for years with the intention of sending them abroad to earn and send remittances; nurses from these two countries make up almost the entire work force of some Persian Gulf States. But now the Philippines is reporting shortages domestically. Mr. Noveda, the nurse in Manila, said his colleagues, exhausted by pandemic demands that have required frequent 24-hour shifts, were applying to leave in record numbers.

Yet movement across borders has been more complicated during the pandemic, and immigration processes have slowed significantly, leaving many workers, and prospective employers, in limbo.

While some countries are sincere about bilateral agreements, that isn’t the only level at which recruitment happens. “What we hear time and time again is that recruitment agencies pitch up in-country and talk directly to the nurses offering very attractive packages,” Mr. Catton said.

The United Kingdom has a “red list” of countries with fragile health systems from which it won’t recruit for its National Health Service. But some health workers get around that by entering Britain first with a placement through an agency that staffs private nursing homes, for example. Then, once they are established in Britain, they move over to the N.H.S., which pays better.

Michael Clemens, an expert on international migration from developing countries at the Center for Global Development in Washington, said the growing alarm about outflows of health workers from developing countries risks ignoring the rights of individuals.

“Offering someone a life-changing career opportunity for themselves, something that can make a huge difference to their kids, is not an ethical crime,” he said. “It is an action with complex consequences.”

The United Kingdom went into the pandemic with one in 10 nurse jobs vacant. Mr. Catton said it some countries are making overseas recruitment a core part of their staffing strategies, and not just using it as a pandemic stopgap. If that’s the plan, he said, then recruiting countries must more assiduously monitor the impact on the source country and calculate the cost being borne by the country that trains those nurses.

Alex Mulumba, the Zambian operating room nurse, says that if he goes to Canada, he won’t stay permanently, just five or six years to save up some money. He won’t bring his family with him, because he wants to keep his ties to home.

“This is my country, and I have to try to do something about it,” he said.

Source: Rich Countries Lure Health Workers From Low-Income Nations to Fight Shortages

Study: Estimating immigrants’ presence in Canada [and emigration using tax filing data]

Useful analysis, with best estimates I have seen to date pending full implementation of the exit-entry program:

By the tenth year after landing, about 15% to 20% of adult immigrants who landed between 2000 and 2004 were estimated to have emigrated from Canada, depending on the definition and data sources used to estimate emigration. Emigration refers to leaving Canada to settle in another country.

A Statistics Canada technical report “Estimating immigrants’ presence in Canada within the context of increasingly fluid international migration patterns” seeks to refine the estimation of emigration among immigrants by assessing methodological choices concerning the scope of the data and definitions of emigration using tax-based administrative data. This study was conducted in collaboration with Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada.

The analysis showed that if emigration is defined proximately as absence from the T1 Personal Master File for two consecutive years, the estimated emigration rate by the tenth year after landing would reach 20% among immigrants who landed between 2000 and 2004 and were aged 25 to 64 on arrival.

The estimated emigration rate was reduced to 15% when emigration was defined as absence for four consecutive years from 14 available tax- or benefits-based data sources.

Even with the 14 available data sources, it is still possible for immigrants who are present in tax files in a given year to not actually reside in Canada, or for those who are absent from tax files to still reside in Canada. The federal government has established an entry–exit program to collect exit and entry data at the land border with the United States and exit data from airlines on all travellers leaving Canada by air. Once available for research purposes, these exit data will further improve the estimation of individuals’ Canadian residence status.

Products

The study “Estimating Immigrants’ Presence in Canada within the Context of Increasingly Fluid International Migration Patterns,” part of the Analytical Studies: Methods and Reference Series (Catalogue number11-633-X), is now available

COVID-19 pandemic prompts recent newcomers to leave Canada for their home countries

Data on departures less accurate than arrivals. But a decline in permanent residents of 41,000 in 2020 compared to 2019 using labour force data is much smaller than the drop in new permanent residents, which fell by 156,000, so I think the significance is over-stated:

The economic and life disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has prompted some recent immigrants to leave Canada and return to their countries of origin, where they have more social and family connections.

The number of permanent residents who have been in Canada for less than five years declined by four per cent to 1,019,000 by the end of 2020 from 1,060,000 the year before, according to an analysis of Statistics Canada’s labour force survey that measures the number of workers between 15 and 65 years old by their immigration status.

The number had grown three per cent a year, on average, in the previous 10 years.

The data show that the number of permanent residents who have been in Canada for five to 10 years also dropped from 1,170,000 in 2019 to 1,146,000 in 2020.

“It’s actually not uncommon to have immigrants go back to their home country during the recessionary periods,” said Robert Falconer, a researcher at the University of Calgary School of Public Policy.

“If they’ve lost their job, they can go and live with their family and not pay rent. They can maybe find some social connections and work back home.”

He said the number of new immigrants fell by about three per cent between 2008 and 2009 during the financial crisis and the recession that followed.

He said many of those who have left in the past year might not come back if the economy doesn’t recover quickly.

“The longer they stay at home in their home countries, the less likely they are to come back to Canada.”

A study by Statistics Canada released in August showed that in the early months of the pandemic, recent immigrants to Canada were more likely than Canadian-born workers to lose their jobs, mainly because they had held them for less time and, as a whole, are overrepresented in lower-wage employment. That includes in service-sector jobs.

Julien Bérard-Chagnon, an analyst with Statistics Canada, said the agency doesn’t keep a monthly count of immigrants who leave the country but a group of its analysts are now working on a paper to examine the issue during COVID-19 pandemic.

“The literature signals that immigrants, especially recent immigrants, are more likely to emigrate than the Canadian-born population,” he said.

While the pandemic has also driven down immigration to Canada by about 40 per cent in 2020 compared to 2019, the Liberal government announced in October that Canada is seeking to admit upwards of 1.2 million new permanent residents in the next three years, including 401,000 this year.

But this number seems optimistic as travel restrictions and the sharp economic downtown remain.

“I doubt they will hit their target this year,” Falconer said.

A spokesman for Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino said the government is very confident it will meet it immigration targets in the next three years.

“In January 2021, we welcomed more new permanent residents than in January 2020, when there was no pandemic,” Alexander Cohen said in a statement.

“We’re already ahead of schedule, welcoming new permanent residents at a rate 37 per cent higher than our projections.”

Falconer said the government is focusing on transitioning temporary residents in Canada to permanent status.

“It’s the best thing to do for people who are living here,” he said. “But in terms of this population growth, it’s a wash, meaning that we’re not actually increasing our population.”

He said this policy is necessary but not sufficient to help the government meet its high immigration target this year.

“Not every temporary resident wants to become a Canadian permanent resident or Canadian citizen. Some of them are here to work, to study and they are perfectly happy to go back home.”

He said the incentive for the government is still to try to increase immigration numbers, especially in jobs related to health care and technology because having fewer immigrants will harm these two sectors more than others.

Andrew Griffith, a former director of citizenship and multiculturalism at the Immigration Department, says immigrants who arrive during an economic downturns tend to suffer economically, at least in the short term, more than those who arrive when the economy is growing.

He said maintaining high levels of immigration at a time when the economy is weak and sectors such as hospitality, retail and tourism are devastated has an element of irresponsibility.

Griffith said immigrants leaving Canada can reflect a failure of Canadian integration policies.

He said the government needs to put more focus on immigrants who are already here as we face structural change in sectors including hospitality, travel and service industries that will affect mostly women, visible minorities and recent immigrants.

“We may be in a fairly structural shift that will eliminate some jobs or dramatically reduce some jobs, and then what kind of retraining programs or other programs we need to support people as they transition.”

Cohen said the government has invested in settlement services during the COVID-19 pandemic by increasing funding to help boost wages by 15 per cent. It has helped buy personal protective equipment to keep staff safe, as well as cellphones and laptops to ensure services, including language training and job-search help, can be offered remotely.

Falconer said the government should address problems with licensing and professional development that many newcomers face in Canada.

“We make it very, very difficult for somebody who worked in a profession in their home country to come here and work in the same profession.”

“Immigrants come here with aspirations or hopes of being able to work and earn a much better living here in Canada than they did in their home country and they discover that they’re actually going to be working in an unpaid, underemployed job.”

Source: COVID-19 pandemic prompts recent newcomers to leave Canada for their home countries

Ahead of November election, growing numbers of Jews consider leaving US

Of note even if anecdotal. Interest and intention are of course different from action:

By 11:42 a.m. on the morning after US President Donald Trump refused to condemn white supremacists during the presidential debate, Heather Segal had received four inquiries from Americans interested in moving to Canada. Two of them were Jewish.

Segal, an immigration lawyer in Toronto, knows there’s always a spike in inquiries during US election years. But in her 25 years of experience, it’s never been as big as it is now.

Source: Ahead of November election, growing numbers of Jews consider leaving US

Brexit fuels brain drain as skilled Britons head to the EU

Not surprising:

Brexit has sparked an exodus of economically productive people from the UK to European Union nations on a scale that would normally be expected only as a result of a major economic or political crisis, according to a detailed new study.

Using a combination of official statistics across the EU and in-depth interviews with people living in Germany, the study found huge changes in migration patterns of UK citizens since the 2016 referendum, which contrast with largely stable ones among nationals from the 27 EU states remaining in the bloc.

The report, a collaboration between the Oxford in BerlinResearch Partnership – a project made up of Oxford university and four Berlin institutions – and the WZB Berlin Social Science Center, also found a “seismic shift” in the number of UK citizens already living abroad who had decided to go a step further by obtaining EU member state passports since 2016, showing how Britain’s vote to leave the EU pushed many individuals into long-term decisions.

Source: Brexit fuels brain drain as skilled Britons head to the EU

Europe’s south and east worry more about emigration than immigration – poll

Interesting results but understandable given the demographics:

Southern and eastern European countries are more concerned about emigration than immigration, according to a wide-ranging survey of attitudes in 14 EU countries.

In Spain, Italy, Greece, Poland, Hungary and Romania, six countries where population levels are either flatlining or falling sharply, more citizens said emigration was a worry than immigration, according to the poll by the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR).

The steepest falls are in Romania, where the population has decreased by almost 10% over the past decade as an exodus of mostly young people move to work in western Europe.

https://interactive.guim.co.uk/uploader/embed/2019/03/popuation-change-zip/giv-3902leY08K5RYnIs/

However, in northern and western nations, concerns over immigration far outstripped those over emigration.

The survey was conducted to establish the principal issues of concern ahead of the European parliamentary elections in May. The 14 nations polled will occupy 80% of the seats in the new parliament.

The poll discovered that Europeans are concerned about far more than migration, even though it has dominated EU politics and discourse over the five year term of the outgoing parliament. Corruption, nationalism, terrorism and climate change are also uppermost in minds.

In the survey as a whole, 20% were worried about emigration and 32% about immigration. The poll was conducted by YouGov and questioned almost 50,000 people.

https://interactive.guim.co.uk/charts/embed/mar/2019-03-25T13:41:59/embed.html

In some countries, the fear of emigration was so great that large numbers of people believed compatriots should not be allowed to leave their country for long periods of time.

https://interactive.guim.co.uk/charts/embed/mar/2019-03-25T15:48:16/embed.html

“The EU elections have been sold as a battleground over the heart of Europe,” said Mark Leonard, the director of the ECFR, adding that nationalists were trying to turn the vote into a referendum on migration.

“The findings from this poll should give heart to pro-Europeans, and show that there are still votes to be won on major issues such as climate change, healthcare, housing, and living standards,” Leonard said. “They will be making a strategic blunder if they accept the framing of the anti-European parties that this election will be won or lost on migration alone.”

Populist leaders like Hungary’s Viktor Orbán and Italy’s Matteo Salvini are seeking to put migration front and centre of the 23-26 May polls, in which 374 million people are eligible to vote in a new parliament for a five-year term. The Orbán government recently deployed a scare poster warning about migration policy in Brussels.

Hungary has refused to take refugees under an EU quota system and continues to block an EU law that proposes a permanent redistribution system for asylum seekers. The poster referred to this theme, stating: “They want to introduce compulsory relocation quotas.”

Orbán, who is under pressure to quit the main centre-right European parliament group, has called for migration policy to be “withdrawn from the commission and returned to the member states”. EU member states already play the decisive role in migration policy.

While Orbán has scaled back his media attacks, following pressure from allies in the European People’s party, he has indicated that he could resume his anti-EU campaign. “Our job now is to continually inform the people about what Brussels is up to.”

But immigration numbers have fallen sharply over the past two years: in 2018, the number who crossed the Mediterranean was put at just over 116,000 by UNHCR, down almost 90% from those who made the journey in 2015.

The survey found that Islamic radicalism was the top area of concern, worrying about one in five Europeans, though fears were much higher in countries like Belgium, France and the Netherlands than in eastern Europe.

In almost all countries, a majority of people agreed that the environment should be made a priority even if it damaged economic growth.

https://interactive.guim.co.uk/charts/embed/mar/2019-03-25T15:47:08/embed.html

But the data also showed a wide range of concerns cropping up in different countries, meaning that the election will be fought on different issues across the continent.

The economy was the single biggest concern in Italy, Romania and Greece. In seven countries – Hungary, Italy, Poland, Romania, Spain, Greece and Slovakia – more than 50% of people surveyed said corruption was a major issue.

Some experts have warned centrist and traditional parties against accepting a pro-EU versus anti-EU narrative, fearing it will only bolster populists by setting up straw-man arguments.

The European elections are the second-largest electoral contest in the world, behind the Indian elections. Voters in 27 countries are due to elect 705 MEPs, who will take office on 2 July. The UK is not scheduled to take part in the vote and will have to inform the EU by 12 April if it wishes to elect MEPs, meaning a long Brexit delay.

Source: Europe’s south and east worry more about emigration than immigration – poll

No surprise here: Canada a turnoff for some refugees – Saunders

Doug Saunders on Canadian smugness:

It was only in the early 20th century, under Wilfrid Laurier’s leadership, that Canada learned to attract and keep people – by spending serious money on agencies and campaigns abroad, and giving people land and cash to come. No period has come close to the Laurier decade for keeping immigrants.

We soon fell back to our exclusionary patterns. With the exception of the 1910s and the 1950s, immigration in the 20th century contributed little to Canada’s population growth: In many decades people didn’t want to come; in others, people arriving barely outnumbered those departing. We spent much of that century turning away refugees and warning each other about the civilizational threats posed by southern and eastern Europeans and Asians. Only after 1999 did immigration, for the first time, overtake childbirth as the main source of population growth.

Still, we spend more money keeping newcomers out, and throwing obstacles in the way of their settlement and citizenship, than we do welcoming them. The mean-spirited politics of the past decade, the policies denying health care to asylum seekers and the cruel temporary-worker rules and family-reunification restrictions are well known overseas, and the best-qualified people would rather go elsewhere. We think we’re a hot date, but we really need to upgrade our Tinder profile.

Even in Britain, Canada has become a turnoff: We are currently the fourth-most-popular country for British emigration, far behind Australia (which receives twice as many people), the United States and Spain. In fact, it’s a net loss: During the past decade, an average of 5,200 British emigrants came here each year, while 8,500 moved the other way. Worse, the British Post Office surveyed British emigrants, and the happiest were those in France, Spain, the United States, Australia and Thailand – Canada didn’t make the list.

We should heed the lesson we learned a few years ago in Ireland: After the country’s economy collapsed in 2008, Ottawa hoped for a migration boom of skilled workers. But only about 1,000 a year came, and they complainedabout unfriendly conditions and unaffordable cities. Only after paying for a big advertising and outreach campaign did that rise to 5,000 – for a year, until things got better in Ireland.

Next time we have a months-long national debate about migrants, maybe it shouldn’t be about them, but about us – why we still seem so cold and unwelcoming, even to those we want.

Source: No surprise here: Canada a turnoff for some refugees – The Globe and Mail

America, the Not So Promised Land – The New York Times

Tara Zahra provides an US historical perspective on return migration (immigrants who return to their country of origin).

In Canada. an estimated one-third of working-age male immigrants leave within 20 years (2006 Statistics Canada study, have not seen anything more recent):

Within Europe, state officials also questioned the myth of the “Golden Country.” This was partly a matter of their perceived self-interest: They were anxious about the number of conscripts and workers lost to “American fever.” But they were also legitimately concerned about the lack of social solidarity in the American “jungle.” The Austrian War Ministry, for example, claimed that “hard labor and an unfamiliar climate, along with the absence of any kind of social protection” resulted in the “complete physical and moral breakdown” of Austrian workers in America.

As European migrants were recruited to replace the plantation labor of freed slaves, some feared that they would be no better treated. Emigration, they insisted, was more likely to deliver migrants to a new form of slavery than greater freedom.

Today’s migrants are not so different from their predecessors. Most make frequent round-trips. They stay in close touch with relatives, aided by low-cost airlines, cellphones and Skype. Many migrants and refugees would like to return home someday, if only they could do so securely. But in a world in which visas are lottery prizes, and refugees die in trucks or find themselves trapped in stateless purgatory, it is not so easy to come and go freely.

In spite of the rhetoric of globalization, we still live with the passports and border controls introduced after the First World War. This system, a response to xenophobic agitation, created the current distinction between legal immigrants and “illegal” aliens. In 1965, the quota system was eliminated, enabling more migrants to come to the United States from Asia, Latin America and Africa. But it remains difficult for migrants to respond nimbly to changing economic or political conditions.

What has not changed is the degree of polarization around migration. Many countries with high levels of migration remain ambivalent about the effects of emigration on their societies. The value of remittances does not clearly outweigh the strain on separated families and the loss of human talent. Migrants continue to have mixed feelings about life in the United States. “We were afraid of poverty,” recalled one family of Bosnian refugees in the 1990s. “We thought we wouldn’t be able to step out on the street because of drugs, murders and similar things. We were afraid that there was no health insurance similar to what we had.”

They came anyway, since “everything looked better than going back to Bosnia with no future at all.”

Americans, meanwhile, are almost perfectly divided about whether immigration makes the United States better or worse, according to the Pew study. Given the overwhelming percentage of Americans descended from immigrants, these attitudes betray deep historical amnesia. We too easily forget the suffering of previous generations of migrants, or imagine that it was redeemed by the relative comfort of their children or grandchildren.

And when these attitudes are combined with xenophobia, punitive migration laws, harsh working conditions and a lack of social support, they raise the same question posed by migrants a century ago. Will my dreams be realized or shattered in America? For most people, the answer will lie somewhere in between.

Source: America, the Not So Promised Land – The New York Times