On being a bad immigrant

A piece over at Crooked Timber by D-squared caught my eye this morning. Although it is primarily about using the Internet to slag off your MP/MSP/MEP, this bit piqued my interest:

It’s very useful for sending letters to MPs who don’t have readily available email addresses but (for example) helped sort out a parking ticket for you a couple of years ago and you want to say thank you. Or for that matter, if you want to ask them not to start any more wars, introduce ID card schemes. Or to suggest to them that the government is unlikely to do any better picking winners among immigrants than it did among nationalised industries.

Following the link to the Evening Standard reveals that the UK Home Secretary Charles Clarke has beliefs about immigration that warm my heart.

This is all quite a propos for me, since I discovered last Thursday that the Belgian Office des ?trangers, in its infinite wisdom, accorded me a permanent resident’s visa last September (read: green card) without my even having to apply, but then neglected to inform me. I discovered this as I attempted to, in fact, apply for permanent resident status. I have to suppress an urge to laugh manically, crying: “The fools have no idea!” In light of the recent rise of anti-immigrant politics in many European countries – including Belgium – I have to confess to a certain temptation to make D-squared’s point myself by getting laid off from my job, never learning the local language, and sitting around collecting unemployment for years. That would teach them to pick and choose immigrants on the basis of salary, employment class and nation of origin. (Indeed, the first part is already done.)

Alas, it wouldn’t be fair. It wouldn’t target the people I’d like to see eat their beliefs about immigration and would probably only serve the interests of the kinds of people who would have this as a party line.

[As an aside, does the Vlaams Belang manifesto sound a lot like the kind of thing some 70’s era Third world vanguard of the workers party might have put out? Consider this:

The party voices the demands of the Flemish Movement on the political scene. […] The Vlaams Belang is a “nationalist party of the right” […] The cooperation of the European nations within a shared civilization and culture provides a historic opportunity for peace, stability and prosperity. […] the Vlaams Belang rejects the tenets of the multicultural ideology.

Now substitute a few words:

The Party voices the demands of the working class on the political scene. […] The People’s Front is a “socialist party of the left” […] The cooperation of the workers of all nations within a shared civilization and culture provides a historic opportunity for peace, stability and prosperity. […] the People’s Front rejects the tenets of the capitalist ideology.

This could have come straight out of the manifesto of some Latin American communist party. Really, they should fire their English translator if they want a reputation as reactionary nationalists.]

At any rate, like D-squared, I have to wonder how nations that were unable to predict future labour market demands and use them in educating their own citizens are going to fare picking immigrants on the same basis. The immigrants whose skills you need now can easily become the next generation of long term unemployed when labour markets change. Immigration is, as Charles Clarke says, an important source of economic growth. But if immigrants are to serve as a source of productivity throughout their working lives, it really does make sense to admit a diverse community of immigrants. As my mutual fund manager keeps telling me, past performance is no guarantee of future returns.

7 thoughts on “On being a bad immigrant

  1. Unless you take everybody applying, I can’t see how you could avoid picking a subset. You could implement a random choice, but common sense tells me that you’ll want healthy, young and educated immigrants.

  2. Does not Canada choose to accept immigrants using the same principles? It is regarded, and indeed is, the most successful country in the world regarding absorption of immigration.

  3. If you imagine the Vlaams Belang manifesto read by members of the People’s Front of Judea in Monty Python’s Life of Brian (who, for the uninitatiated, sound like trade union shop stewards earnestly grappling with Marxist terminology), it’s a perfect fit.

    Anyway, I wonder if the original Flemish text is equally stolid, since the Vlaams Belang’s problem seems to be not so much translation as an inability to express their ideas without resorting to clich?d political jargon (e.g. ‘rejects the tenets of the multicultural ideology’).

  4. Danny, yes it does, for those who are requesting entry on the basis of their skills. It doesn’t for refugees or family unification, or for the “let me in cuz I’m rich” category. And the government of Quebec grants the most points for a single skill: Parlez-vous français?

    And watch for that passive tense. These folks would disagree.

    Canada’s success in integrating immigrants appears not to be very different for refugee claimants than for the skilled category. This suggests that the relationship between social stability and pickiness is not so simple.

  5. the relationship between social stability and pickiness is not so simple

    No relationship between two social phenomena is going to be simple or straightforward. That’s why we need statistics to express social realities. That’s how insurance companies decide to give policies out to people. That is also why the hypothetical example of yourself is unconvincing.

    [Canada selects immigrants according to qualifications] for those who are requesting entry on the basis of their skills. It doesn?t for refugees or family unification, or for the ?let me in cuz I?m rich? category

    I’m wondering about the background of the refugees that Canada accepts. The Ugandan Ismailis back in the 70s, frex, were very highly-skilled refugees. In any case, none of the categories under which Canada accepts immigrants (skills, family, asylum or wealth) describe much of the immigration to the West since WWII, which is of the “hewers of wood and drawers of water” category.

    the government of Quebec grants the most points for a single skill: Parlez-vous fran?ais?

    Mind, I’m not critical of that. They are open about their reasons for wanting francophone immigrants, that is what they perceive as their national interest, and that’s absolutely fine.

  6. More than 10 years ago, Canada accepted about 80,000 immigrants annually. Then in the early 90’s, for political reasons, it began accepting 200,000 to 300,000 annually (say 230,000 on average). The population now is a little under 35,000,0000 in Canada.

    Over 100,000 immigrants go to Toronto each year (6 million people in area). Montreal (4 million) and Vancouver(1.7 million) take most of the rest. The reason Canada is successful is that within Toronto their are lots of low level jobs and new immigrants arrive and find existing communities that are very large. Example: At least 4 China towns, 60-80,000 Koreans, large slavic communities from several nations, large Somalian community, african restaurants and communities, Sikh churches (they control some 20+ liberal federal ridings, the government’s party -in Toronto, even though their numbers are very small-extremely political people) …..and one could go on and on.

    One thing Canada does is target people with children. If the parents are professional, the kids invariably attend university.It gets a lot of people with money or education
    from Hong Kong, Taiwan, China.

    Canada got very lucky in the late 80’s and early 90’s though. A conservative politician desired to be first female prime minister of Canda (the ill-fated Kim Campbell beat her to it). She hooked up with the finance minister who had no desire to be prime minister, by accepting the immigration post, supposedly to reduce the backlogs (refugees waiting up to 5+ years) .. she immediately made things much worse. This was to support the finance minister’s drive to lower inflation by, in his words, “reducing inflation in Toronto, the country’s engine of growth, by reducing wages”. It was a horrible time. About 12% of the provinces residents received welfare and another 6% unemployment. Housing and apartments had sky high prices. Another 20 percent of the population worked part time jobs and barely made ends meet. BUT .. fortune smiled on Toronto. The dotcom era came, computers (after a decade of trying) finally became a net positive to society..and the economy finally absorbed enough people to stop a deep and very slowly growing malaise within the lower third of society.

    Immigration should not be a tool of weak economic policy. It hurts immigrants, hurts working citizens, and creates long term risks to society. Immigrants should immediately be given a thousand bucks or so (perhpas the expected amount they will pay in taxes in their first low-level job in the first 6 months or one year), probationary citizen cards, some language training and assistance courses if they cannot find suitable help in their community.

  7. When I got my permesso di soggiorno (green card) I ran into huge lines, because the Italians were having one of the amnesties which make other Europeans irritated with them.

    A the head of the line, the volunteer laughed at me because I had a right to a permesso (I am married to an Italian) so I could have gone to the regular office (I chose not to mention that I had and it was closed because everyone was dealing with the amensty applicants).

    The very high point of the effort was when I was informed that my wife could autocertify that she was married to me, but not that I was married to her.

    I’m a fairly bad immigrant since I don’t really work (that is work for the Italian public sector) and refuse to learn the genders of words.

Comments are closed.