November 19th, 2009
“Nativist” politics and prejudice of immigration are very old in both US and Europe, as are the arguments against immigration. The irony of all this is that the American colonists were invaders and destroyers of native cultures, as were the European Barbarians who migrated from Central Asia to colonize the continent.
But that is far too distant, far too historical and unemotional to have any relevance in the present. If indeed the countries of origin would be developed on “self-sufficiency” models instead of globalization rooted in draining their resources and keeping them perpetually underdeveloped, then I would agree with the argument some WAISers have advanced against “temporary immigrants.” The fact that there is “permanent and temporary foreign labor” is proof that the countries of origin are not developed in large measure because they exist under exploitative models of integration. This is not to excuse the utterly corrupt public and private sectors of the “countries of origin” (invariably underdeveloped in Africa, Asia, and Latin America), but they do not operate separately and distinctly from the world capitalist economy.
Regarding the impact of private remittances [see Tim Brown's post of 18 November--JE], I agree about their positive value to the country of origin, and thank God remittances are something although they come with the hard work, deplorable living conditions, and exploitative wages of legal and illegal immigrants in the advanced capitalist countries. Be that as it may, are remittances a structural solution to fix the chronic problem? Nor do I believe that trickle-down economics, as the great John Kenneth Galbraith noted during the Reagan-Thatcher decade, works to do much for the lower classes of either poor or rich nations.
And please let us correct the record: I am not one of those who has ever advocated, either in WAIS posts or in my publications on IMF and World Bank, that “trickle down economic development” works. And I think it is an insult to the millions of Mexicans in the US who have helped build the US economy in the past 200 years to dismiss them as gardeners and swimming pool cleaners for the rich, and to limit their vast and multifarious contributions to the US economy and social fabric. I believe kind well-intentioned people–whether politicians and intellectuals, including WAISers–or the corner drug store pharmacist in Cleveland or Paris, feel less secure when they see or hear about waves of immigrants threatening the status quo. I am not sure why people find it extraordinary that the poor–in this case poor immigrants–commit crimes, given that poverty is the real crime that capitalism precipitates. And I am seriously concerned when people single out Muslims, Africans, Latin Americans, Asians, or any other group to prove their point about the evils of immigration, and then they ask for empirical evidence to prove that higher percentage of crime is caused by natives instead of immigrants. All of this implies there is something in the DNA of the immigrant that causes him to commit crimes, and that the environment is free of any responsibility. As an emotionally charged issue, especially in this decade after 9/11 and the US-western-led wars against Muslims, immigration on the surface is an easy target for all calamities people believe befall their country, not realizing that as “established natives” they are descendants of immigrants.