“We simply cannot allow people to pour into the United States undetected, undocumented, unchecked, and circumventing the line of people who are waiting patiently, diligently and lawfully to become immigrants in this country,” said former US president, Barack Obama. Recently, immigration has become a highly significant political issue in many countries, with a lot of opposition against it brewing.
There have been many reasons why several new immigration reforms are in the making. The developed countries like the USA, who strive to maintain the ‘required’ population, have started identifying themselves as overpopulated, which is a huge threat to its resources in itself. While the developing or underdeveloped countries are facing an acute shortage of human resources, which is quintessential to their successful journey towards becoming developed. Another noticeable phenomenon is of wage disparity. The immigrants, who usually arrive for hunting jobs are willing to work at a much lower wage rate than the non-immigrants would be, which leads to wage disparity. This, in turn, affects job growth.
It also creates stress on the social services that come along with employment, like food and housing services. This may encourage the imposition of higher tax rates to cover up for the potential shortfall. Also, migration usually puts upward pressure on rents and house prices, reducing living standards and increasing housing poverty for both immigrants and the native population. The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) found that between 1991 and 2015, immigration had contributed to a 20% rise in house prices.
Another social impact of immigration, which is quite obvious, is disharmony, which could be at workplaces, markets or residential areas. There are many societies that may be unwelcoming in nature, as they feel their culture, background or national identity may be threatened. They may resort to discrimination, which ultimately thwarts the success of a country.
Before beginning with how are various countries dealing with their pool of immigrants, I would like to differentiate between a few terms commonly used in this subject. Legal immigrants are documented residents of a country, while illegal ones are those who have migrated in violation of the immigration laws of the country. This usually creates the fear of being detained or deported. A refugee is a migrant who has fled their country of origin as they have a fear of being persecuted because of their race, religion, social group, etc and thus is either unwilling or unable to return to their country. An asylum seeker claims to be a refugee but his claim is yet unevaluated. He remains an asylum seeker till the time his application is pending. Thus, all refugees are asylum seekers, but all asylum seekers are not refugees.
HOW IS US DEALING WITH IMMIGRATION?: The immigrant population in the United States comprises 14% of the total population i.e. more than 43 million people out of a total 323 million, according to the Census Bureau. Though many of the US immigration policies aim to reduce illegal immigration enforcing at the border, however, statistics suggest that individuals who overstay their visas comprise a much bigger portion than those who cross the border illegally.
A major strategy through which the USA tackles its immigration is through the H-1B visa policy. H-1B visa is a visa in the US, which allows US employers to temporarily employ foreign workers in specialty occupations, which require the application of specialized knowledge and a bachelor’s degree or the equivalent of work experience. The duration of this visa is from 3 to a maximum of 6 years, after which the holder shall have to reapply. An H-1B visa holder can bring in immediate family members (spouse and children under the age of 21) under the H-4 visa category. The dependent may remain in the US as long as the H-1B visa holder retains his/her legal status. The dependent is also allowed to attain employment provided the Form I-765 is approved and the spouse receives an Employment Authorization Document card. In 2017, the United States granted close to 180,000 H-1B visas, and more than 280,000 visas for temporary workers in agriculture and other industries. H-1B visa benefits the American industry to enable it to hire the best talent with checks and balances. This also helps them to import cheap labor.
Donald Trump had instructed the federal agencies to construct a physical wall to get complete control of the US border with Mexico. He also called for an end to ‘catch and release practices’, in which certain unauthorized immigrants captured at the border would be earlier allowed into the US till the time court settles the hearings.
Trump had also passed a much controversial order of banning nationals from Iran, Iraq, Somalia, Libya, Yemen, and Sudan from entering the US for at least 90 days, indefinitely from Syria and suspended the US refugee program for 120 days. This action drew widespread protests from individuals, cities, and states. In addition, Trump had halved the annual cap of refugees and made it tremendously difficult for individuals to seek asylum in the USA.
THE EU-UK MIGRATION: Under the EU law, member countries are allowed the mutual free movement of people i.e. no visa requirements, no work permits, or quotas on each other’s citizens. The UK and EU now represent two divergent models of immigration. Under the current proposals, EU nationals would need to qualify for work permits, they shall be ranked as ‘high-skilled’ or ‘low-skilled’. The low-skilled ones would be eligible for a temporary permit (2-3 years). High-skilled ones would be eligible for a 5- year work permit and could eventually apply for citizenship.
The UK holds a much liberal stance in non-EU college graduates coming to work in Europe or the Intra-company transfers (ICT’s) in terms of minimum salary requirements, tenure and ease of movement among the EU countries. Both EU-UK is expected to face major challenges post Brexit in terms of their immigration models. The UK has to disentangle its economy from its reliance on EU labor especially in the retail, transport and healthcare sector. According to the estimates of White Paper, the government’s current proposals are likely to reduce immigration from the EU to the UK by a considerable 80%. The view from Europe also seems foggy. The re-emergence of anti-immigration political parties in Germany and Austria are indicators that liberal movement policies of the EU may near an end as well.
CONCLUSION: With ongoing exhaustion of our limited resources, curbing the population is the ultimate need of the hour. Also, a layman may suggest that immigration results in a net-zero effect on resources, as the people are merely shifting from one place to another and consuming the resources. However, that is not the case as the quantum of these resources varies from country to country, and a scenario of over or underpopulation is definitely not favorable in any country, as it takes a toll on the prevalent resources of that nation. Thus, the world needs stricter laws to curb illegal immigration and prevent these unfavorable scenarios.