The End of the Age of Migration?

By John Tanton
Volume 2, Number 2 (Winter 1991-1992)
Issue theme: "Getting past the immigration taboo - an international perspective"

This may seem like a strange concept, given world events. There seem to be more people on the move now than ever before. In Europe, applications for asylum have increased many fold. In the new Germany, well over 200,000 are expected this year. Similar situations in the other countries of the EEC have brought forth governmental declarations that theirs are not countries of immigration, as well as stringent proposals to modify statutes and procedures for controlling entry into the country. Europe, after all, is a very densely populated area. The Nether-lands, where the population density exceeds 1,200 persons per square mile on average, is one of the most densely peopled nations on earth.

Elsewhere around the world we all know about the tremendous unrest in Russia and Eastern Europe which, as some have projected, could shake tens of millions of people loose from their moorings. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees lists 18 million refugees worldwide, and according to some author-ities, there are, in addition, something on the order of 20 million people in Africa who are displaced by natural or political causes.

All of this occurs against a background of constantly increasing human numbers. The world population increases at about 10,000 per hour, 250,000 per day, 90 million per year. Freedom House, in its annual survey of freedom around the globe, reports that three quarters of the world's 5.4 billion people live under conditions that are either not free or are partially free. That comes to something on the order of 3 billion people. In China, the government has set the official poverty level at an income of $38.00 per year - and 50 million Chinese have incomes less than the 10 cents a day this amounts to. The push side of the migration equation is fairly clear, and pressures are steadily increasing.

On the receiving side, defenses are going up. All across Europe discussions are being held on how to control immigration, with calls for a common migration policy for all twelve EEC countries.

Of the 160-plus countries that belong to the United Nations, only three openly admit any appreciable numbers of legal immigrants. The United States takes perhaps one million per year (including a low estimate for the illegal alien flow in that count), Canada receives about 150,000, and Australia about 125,000. Summing these up, it comes to about 1.25 million - this total in the face of a pool of perhaps 3 billion people worldwide who could improve their circumstances immensely by migrating to one of the three immigrant-receiving countries. We need to keep in mind that the pool of potential migrants is increasing by about 80 million per year. (90 percent of the net increase of 90 million each year is in the less-developed countries.)

...the vast majority of people

will have to bloom where they

are planted ... The age of

migration is at an end

for all but the tiniest

fraction of the human race.

To make the mathematics easy let's say that, worldwide, about 3 million people are willingly received as immigrants each year, out of a pool of about 3 billion potential migrants. That's 0.1 percent. Even this flow - large in the view of the receiving countries, and small in comparison to the possible demand - is producing a marked reaction in the receiving countries and generating calls for strong controls. It seems highly unlikely that tens, or hundreds, of millions of people are going to be able to pull up stakes and move elsewhere.

Conclusion the vast majority of people - the 99.9 percent - will have to bloom where they're planted. They will never be able to solve their personal or societal problems by moving away from them. The motto for the New World Order will have to be Stand and Fight, not Cut and Run. The age of migration is at an end for all but the tiniest fraction of the human race.

Sadly, the few who are able to pack up and leave are often the very ones on whom their fellow citizens most need to rely for social change - those with some education and a view of a better future, those whose dissatisfaction can energize them to help bring about the changes that could make life more acceptable at home. If these people leave, how will change ever come? Should we pat ourselves on the back for facilitating their exodus?

Before our very eyes the world moves into a new era of the irresistible forces of demographic, political and economic push on one hand, and the immovable object of resistance to new migrants on the other. It seems only a matter of time until the United States, Canada and Australia join the other 160 members of the United Nations in deciding that they already have enough people - other considerations notwithstanding. What happens then? Would-be immigrants will have to look within their own countries for solutions. Paradoxically, the possibility of emigration now forestalls the development of this constructive attitude.

To explore this theme, two interesting and timely conferences were held last October in Washington, D.C. The first was sponsored by the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS). Immigration scholars, mostly of a restrictive persuasion, were gathered from half a dozen countries in Europe, and from Canada and Australia. Together they discussed the dilemmas facing them and laid the groundwork for future exchanges of ideas and strategies on what promises to be one of the hottest topics for the '90s.

The second was sponsored by the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) on the topic of myths and taboos in immigration policy, exploring the difficulties of discussing the immigration topic. One of the key speakers was Katharine Betts, whose essay Immigration and Ideology was our lead article in Vol. I, No. 4 of The Social Contract.

In this issue we bring you reports from both of these conferences, as well as related comments, book reviews, and views from around the world.

John H. Tanton

Editor and Publisher

About the author

John H. Tanton is editor and publisher of The Social Contract. He is the founder of the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR).

For more articles and background information, see the John Tanton website.