03 January 2007

Immigration and Presuppositions

It’s interesting how our presuppositions can affect the conclusions that we come to.

According to a group called “Migrationwatch UK”, the average immigrant benefits the UK economy by 4p a week or £2.10 a year. I’m not going to dignify this group by giving them a link but you can read the
BBC’s coverage here.

Now, it seems that those of us already here are supposed to throw our arms up in horror and exclaim “Only £2.10 a year benefit to the economy per immigrant! That’s not enough! Keep ‘em out!”

The default presumption seems to be that we will all want to keep immigrants out of the country unless there is some sort of huge economic benefit to us. Why?

I come to this issue thinking like a Christian minister (a Jewish rabbi would think the same way). I come with the thought that “hospitality” is our obligation as followers of God. I come to the issue with the thought that I’m obliged to help someone in need even if it costs me money.

So “Migrationwatch UK’s” statistics sound like good news to me. These statistics mean that each immigrant is paying his or her own way. Not only that, but each immigrant is actually adding something to the economy! Someone tell me why this is supposed to be bad news?


Sandalstraps said...

I couldn't agree with you more. Not only does a more open immigration policy provide an economic benefit (as you note, immigrants not only fail to be an economic drain, but slightly improve the economy), it also provides less tangible benefits.

A more open society is a more tolerant society, exposed to the differences that are very real in the world, even if they are not always reflected in our communities. As such, in more open societies, one never really encounters the other, that strange person from that strange culture that I don't really understand so I must fear. Instead, one only encounters varying degrees of familiarity, and familiarity builds tolerance, the most necessary virtue for peace.

Additionally, a more open immigration policy, which as noted above leads to encounters with a variety of people from a variety of cultures, enriches each culture as it learns from surrounding cultures. If, for instance, the United States did not have such an open immigration policy, and if my own city were not so welcoming to immigrants, would I love Thai food, or Vietnamese food, or Korean food, or Mexican food like I do now? Would I have the benefit of going to restaurants like combine the culinary elements of many different cultures into a delightful new style of food which can't be described by traditional labels? And that's just the food!

But, perhaps most importantly, the West, by virtue of being economically favored, also has a moral obligation to have an open immigration policy. We have a duty to share the benefits of our culture with those who do not enjoy the economic advantages that we have. Doing this duty also affords peace, as it prevents Western societies from being as despised in the developing world.

And that and, at least in Great Britain, a slight economic bump.

PamBG said...

Excellent additions. Thanks.