Posted by: cochinblogger | August 16, 2009

Between the Devil and the Deep Sea

Immigration has become a hot topic these days. For example, a book has been published that critically examines the impact of Muslim immigration into Europe (,0,32363.story). In the U.K., once considered a soft touch by immigrants, the government has beefed up the immigration laws. In fact, a cousin who lives in London told me a few months ago that because of this tough policy, the inflow of immigrants has substantially reduced, with the result that a lot of the work that the immigrants used to do is not being done, because the Brits turn up their noses at the kinds of work immigrants typically do. This has led many to wonder if it was such a good idea to curtail immigration on such a massive scale. Who will do the elite’s dirty work without protesting, except immigrants?

Here is a revealing excerpt from an OUP Blog post (

Since 1900, repeated attempts to organize a farm workers’ union in California had failed because the farm owners-or “growers”-had vigorously resisted farm labor organizing, often violently. Their large-scale, specialized, and integrated agricultural enterprises required large numbers of seasonal workers to be available whenever and wherever they were needed. At harvest time, these workers held the economic well-being of these enterprises literally in their hands. So the growers protected themselves-and held labor costs down-by recruiting a particularly powerless workforce of impoverished new immigrants who lacked the political rights of other Americans and who, as people of color, faced racial barriers in all spheres of life. For farm workers, the result was low wages, poor living and working conditions, and a lack of security for themselves and their families …

Perhaps immigrants could be allowed in on short-term contracts, and summarily sent back to their home countries upon expiry of the contract. Their places would be filled by a fresh inflow of other immigrants, again to be allowed in only on short-term contracts. But would there be any takers for these short work stints?

Then again, skilled workers also fill slots that locals cannot; for example, immigrant doctors help prop up the U.K.’s National Health Service.

Damned if we do, damned if we don’t. This sums up the plight of those who wish to keep a lid on immigration into their countries.

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