Thursday, September 10, 2015

Long View of Immigration

Thank you to Jonathan Portes of the UK's National Institute of Economic and Social Research for his report on the ancient and honorable human practice of migration into already-inhabited parts of the world, such as the British Isles.

"How did we get here? A short and unreliable account of immigration to the UK" is the title.

The Celts – who arrived in the first millenium BC – are believed to have originated on the Russian steppes, and so the language(s) spoken here have long been part of the Indo-European family, derived from Sanskrit and which includes Hindu and Punjabi as well as French and Greek. 

After the Celts, there were Angles, Saxons, Danes, and Franks/Normans, who spoke French.  

William, the Norman Conqueror, invited in Jews for their financial services, but two centuries later Edward I expelled them.

The reason was of course economic; unlike Christians, Jews were not debarred from usury (moneylending) and were thus able to provide important financial services to the King and ruling elite. 

The next major waves of immigration were related to religious persecution, both of Dutch to England and Puritan English to Holland and to North America.  There were even refugee processing centers set up for the Dutch arriving in England.

From the 18th century through the present, there has been immigration from various parts of the British Empire and then the Commonwealth.

Recent immigration is caused by globalization, free movement of labor in the European Union, and asylum-seekers fleeing armed conflict and persecution.  

Portes concludes that:
Britain has benefited considerably, in both economic and cultural terms, as a result. In retrospect, those benefits are widely accepted... However, those benefits were rarely recognized at the time.

My question:  When will the nations of world accept immigration as a fact of life and stop using national borders as an excuse for rejecting newcomers?

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