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Contradictions In Selective Immigration Policy

Chris Dillow (Stumbling and Mumbling) has a good post on the dilemma between immigration which doesn’t depress domestic job prospects and immigration which maintains social cohesion.

Chris Dillow: What Sort of Immigrants?

Lord Carey’s remarks on immigration raise an issue for those who favour immigration controls: is there a trade-off between the immigrants you want on economic grounds, and the immigrants that would promote social cohesion?

Here’s what I mean. From the point of view of the labour market, we want immigrants who are as unlike us as possible. We want people with different skills and tastes from us, who’ll do jobs that we can’t or won’t do. These sort of people don’t compete with us in the labour market and so don’t threaten “our” jobs and wages.

However, from the point of view of social cohesion, we want people just like us, those who share our values.
Isn’t there a contradiction here?

You might think not. It’s quite possible that people can differ from us in labour market aspects and yet share our values in other respects.

Possible, but not certain. Indeed, some research has found that, among Muslims, labour market success is associated with stronger religious views. In this respect, immigrants who are good for the economy are bad for social cohesion: Kafeel Ahmed, who died trying to blow up Glasgow airport, was the sort of highly-qualified man who appeared to be an ideal economic migrant.

You might think the solution to this dilemma is simple: we should simply stop trying to pick and choose who enters the country.

True. But I fear instead that it has another implication. It implies that opposition to immigration will always be with us. If immigrants were just like us, Carey and his like would moan about how they are depressing the job prospects of indigenous workers. And if immigrants were so different as to not jeopardise indigenous wages or employment, they’d moan about them being different, not sharing our values, or creating uncertainty amongst native people.

Hostility to foreigners will always exist. All that changes is the shabby nature of the justification for it.

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