Immigration: A Global View

The second decade of the 21st century has seen a surge in controversies about immigration. There are some lessons to be learned.

The highlights:

– At least 25,000 Rohingya – an impoverished and persecuted Muslim minority of about one million in Buddhist Myanmar (formerly Burma) – have fled by sea to Malaysia, Thailand, and Indonesia, with thousands dying at sea or in smuggler camps. At this point there is a stand-off between their destination countries which do not want them and Myanmar which denies them citizenship.

– Some 3,000,000 refugees from the Syrian conflict have entered neighboring countries, and 300,000 have sought asylum in the European Union – primarily in Germany and Sweden.

– In 2014, some 200,000 refugees from North Africa and the Middle East crossed the Mediterranean, largely from Libya to Italy, with thousands drowning in a growing string of tragedies. The European Union’s developing response is military interdiction of the smugglers in the absence of any effective Libyan government, and a contentious quota system to distribute the survivors among the 28 EU members based on the economic capacity of each country.

– In the UK, where net immigration runs about 300,000 in a country of 65,000,000, the rise of the United Kingdom Independence Party has forced Prime Minister Cameron to promise a difficult renegotiation of the benefits  available to the half that come from poorer EU countries and to resist the EU quota plan. Elsewhere in Europe the focus of “nativist” parties like UKIP is more toward the deluge of Muslim immigrants.

A few comments on the macro trends:

– Contrary to what the global warming alarmists might promulgate, these migrations have nothing to do with rising tides or famine due to changing weather patterns. In fact, over the past two decades world hunger has decreased by a third despite the addition of 1.5 billion people. The causes? Political stability in China, sub-Sahara Africa, India, and South America; containment of major diseases; and the application of technologies such as genetically modified seeds – thank you Monsanto.

– The downside is the arc of failed states from Pakistan, to Afghanistan, to Yemen, to Iraq, to Syria, to Somalia, to Libya. All Sunni Muslim. None showing promise of a better future.

– In the telecommunications era every successful migrant can encourage his friends back home with stories of “the land of milk and honey”, and there are reporters to cover every sinking boat or starving family – well, maybe not in central Asia or Africa.

– The general absence of politically-motivated violence by the immigrants is striking, the al Queda and ISIS calls for jihad notwithstanding.

And what does it mean for us?

–  If the situation is dire enough in Mexico and Central America no wall or border patrol will keep migrants out.

– The world has more sympathy for refugees from wars than it does for economic immigrants. Almost all of our immigrants are of the economic variety.

– The largest problems involve immigrants who come from markedly different cultures – Muslims in post-Christian Europe; the Rohingya in Buddhist Myanmar. In comparison, Hispanics in the United States are much more able to assimilate.

One does have to give thanks for living in the US of A, and perhaps to sing along with the Star Spangled Banner at the next ball game.


This week’s video is a trumpet solo by a young Dutch girl backed by the orchestra of Andre Reiu. The backstory – each year on the anniversary of the liberation of Holland in World War II, there is a celebration honoring those who died in the battle, including the 8,301 Americans who have been “adopted” by Dutch families. This piece, Il Silenzio, was adapted from Taps under a commission by the Dutch government, and has been played as the closing performance since 1965.