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Trend and Effects of Global Immigration
Immigration is a major political issue in the United States. Elections are won or lost based on candidates' position on immigration reform. According to a 2008 Gallup Poll most people in the United States believe that immigration should be decreased.
However, according to the same poll, since 2005 whites and blacks feel that immigration should be decreased. Conversely, the data shows that Hispanics believe immigration should be increased. In contrast, since 2005 whites, blacks and Hispanics all believe that immigration is a good thing for this country. Still, while whites and blacks believe that immigrants cost tax payers too much, yet Hispanics believe that immigrants do not cost tax payers too much. All those who responded to the Gallup Poll believe that immigrants are willing to take the low-paying jobs that Americans don't want (Gallup, 2010). While Gallup data provides insight only to trends in the United States, data from the Ogranisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD) provides a snapshot of the reality of immigration around the world. OECD data shows that since 2005 foreign populations have increased in the majority of countries tracked. The greatest increases in foreign workers are in the United States, Canada, Italy, New Zealand, and Spain (2009).
The migration of people is not a new phenomenon. History shows that people have migrated since ancient times (Mueller, 2007). "[M]igrations are not an isolated phenomenon: movements of commodities and capital almost always give rise to movements of people" state Castles and Miller (as cited in Ryan, 2007). The Gallup data illustrates a trend in public opinion in the United States that immigration should be decreased (2010), yet internationally, including United States, OECD data shows a trend that actual immigration is steadily increasing each year (2009). The increase in immigration suggests another trend in the job market in which low paying jobs in this country are taken by immigrants, which supports the Gallup report stating that while there are many reasons for migration, the universal desire of all is to get a good job (Clifton, 2007).
Historically, immigrants were poor males that were mostly unskilled. These men immigrated generally for economic reasons to send money back to their families (Ryan, 2007). Since 1970 the profile of an immigrant has evolved to include females who choose to migrate for a variety of reasons including family reunification, improved quality of life for their children and good jobs (Ryan, 2007; Piper, 2006; Horton, 2008; Clifton, 2007). Since 1980 women outnumber male immigrants in countries such as Australia, the United States, and Canada (Ryan, 2007).
Impact of Immigration
To the extent that people migrate to reunite their families, get a good job, or improve their financial situation, migration is beneficial to the individual. However, the ultimate benefits of migration come at a cost. For example, Mexican women often migrate to provide "ideal" lives for their children, influenced by their perceptions of the ". . . classic Western ideals of childhood as a space protected from adult burdens and the sphere of monetized relationships . . ." (Horton, 2008). In their quests to provide perfect lives for their children, these mothers are separated from their children for months or even years at a time in order to earn enough money to transport their children across borders. Separations are often longer than expected because of increased post-9/11 border enforcement. The cost for these mothers is the deterioration of their relationships with their children. To ensure that their children do not forget, them they send gifts to their children such as toys, candy and clothes. For the children left behind the cost for them is, ironically, at the expense their childhoods. For example, eldest daughters are left to "mother" younger siblings. Children left behind sometimes feel abandoned, which fosters anger at their absent mothers. These children may also suffer emotionally at the insults of classmates who make fun of them because their parents have migrated to another county (Horton, 2008). Additionally, depending on how they enter a country (i.e., as refugees, asylum seekers, or trafficked) and the jobs they perform (i.e., domestic labor, sex work, service industry work, unskilled labor), many women remain undocumented, which suggests that immigration numbers are even higher than reported (Piper, 2006).
The economic impact of migration influences society both positively and negatively. Sending countries benefit from unemployment relief and substantial income through remittances from emigrants (Ryan, 2007). Yet, sending countries also suffer from the loss of skilled workers. (The US National Intelligence Council, 2001)
Receiving countries benefit from a new workforce of skilled and unskilled laborers who fill the jobs the younger generation entering the workforce typically does not want. Unfortunately, employers whose businesses depend on skilled labor often take advantage of illegal workers with low pay, long hours, poor conditions, and work law violations. Yet without these workers many of these businesses would fold. Paradoxically, as the need for skilled workers increases, migrant workers will begin to demand higher wages as companies compete for their skills (Hemme, 2006).
According to Clifton, all countries will compete for the key commodity that creates jobs: brain gain. "Brain gain is defined as a city's or country's attraction of talented people whose exceptional gifts and knowledge create new business and new jobs and increase that city's or country's economy" (2007). These human mega talents and their supporting employees impact their local economies through their purchasing power. They also impact their country's GNP through the production of their companies' goods. While countries that are able to attract the mega-talents reap the ultimate economic benefits (Gallup estimates one talented "star" per $100 million of GNP), conversely the countries from which the talent leaves suffer severe brain drain through "the lack of skilled workers in health, aviation, mining, shipping and port operations" (Clifton, 2007).
In my professional experience, I have witnessed the effects of immigration on education. There is tremendous benefit to students and districts in the sharing of diverse cultures and languages. However, increased enrollment of children whose parents may not pay taxes places a significant financial burden on school districts because of the need to hire additional teachers and provide meals and transportation. Districts realize a decrease in attendance revenue when migrant families return to their sending countries for extended periods of time. Because of language barriers, districts must provide more bilingual teachers, administrators and paraprofessionals to ensure communication with migrant parents and students. Equally important, test scores suffer because of language barriers and disparity in educational standards of the sending country and receiving district.
Migration will continue, but the destinations chosen will ultimately depend on where people can "get a good job" (Clifton, 2007). Dramatic increases in immigration are predicted in the United States, Europe, Asia and Latin America triggered by "violent conflicts, economic crises, and natural disasters" (The US National Intelligence Council, 2001). Globalization and democratization will make such dramatic increases difficult to control. Mass migration from Mexico, Cuba and Haiti to the United States will be the result of poverty and political unrest (U.S. National Intelligence Council, 2001). Nations must heed these trends and predictions, prepare their infrastructures and develop plans to attract brain gain to ensure economic success for their citizens.
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Ryan, Jan. (2007). Globalization and migration in the 21st century: looking back into the future. Forum on Public Policy: A Journal of the Oxford Round Table. Retrieved February 23, 2010, from Academic OneFile via Gale: http://find.galegroup.com.ezproxylocal.library.nova.edu/gtx/start.do?prodId=AONE&userGroupName=novaseu_main
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