Myron Weiner, Ford International Professor of Political Science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Director of its Center for International Studies, is author of The Global Migration Crisis: Challenge to States and to Human Rights.
More than ever before, migration is a global phenomenon. In search of employment, higher wages, educational opportunities for themselves and their children, and escape from persecution and violence, millions of people cross international borders each year. Countries that had few immigrants in the past now have growing immigrant populations. Nearly every major city in the world has a sizable immigrant community. Frankfurt has its Turks, Vancouver its Chinese, Marseilles and Paris their Algerians, London its West Indians, Kuwait, Dubai, and Abu Dhabi their Indians, New York its Russian Jews, Dacca its Biharis, Bangkok its Burmese, and Tokyo its Iranians. Over a hundred million people are now living outside the country of their birth, and millions more latter-generation immigrants maintain their ethnic identities. In industrialized societies, noncitizens now typically constitute more than 5 percent of the population. That figure is 8.5 percent in the United States and Germany, and as high as 15 percent in Canada, 18 percent in Switzerland, and 24 percent in Australia. In a few oil-producing countries like Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Oman, and Kuwait, noncitizens outnumber natives.
These large and visible immigrant populations have given pause to governments and their citizens. Do immigrants benefit the economy, taking unwanted jobs and providing needed skills, or do they displace workers and burden public resources? Do immigrants add cultural diversity and artistic creativity, or do they erode national identities and fragment societies? Are immigrants fully incorporated into citizenship, or are they marginalized with limited rights and benefits? Are countries losing skilled workers, or do they benefit by having many of their citizens abroad sending remittances home, making investments, and transferring technologies? Do immigrants facilitate international cooperation, or do they exacerbate conflict and contribute to global terrorism and drug trafficking?
In country after country, these questions are the subject of political debate and the impetus for new policies. In the United States, California passed Proposition 187 in 1994, denying many benefits to illegal immigrants. Presidential candidate Pat Buchanan has called for a halt to immigration, and congressional
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