Belmont Club

The Immigration Debate

The Center for Immigration Studies compares the Australian immigration system to that of the US. Their main conclusion is that the Australian system holds no mysteries. “The Down Under annual report is a good example of how a government can explain what it does. It describes in lucid prose, tables, and charts how immigration impacts the nation, and what has transpired in its immigration programs during the 12 months under consideration.”

Writer David North’s most interesting observation is that Australia still regards immigration as a policy tool to be used for the national benefit. It is not seen as some kind of natural phenomenon whose workings should not be infringed as a matter of right, whether it benefits Australia or not. North says,  “whereas legal international migration to the US has been little impacted by the world-wide recession, the Australian system allows the minister to adjust inward flows downward in economic bad times.  … Australians, as a matter of policy, have long since decided – again unlike the States – that it should allow more admissions of aliens in the worker categories than in the family categories, thus getting more useful inputs to the society.”

Although Australia, being entirely surrounded by water, does not have to build a wall, the differences between the two countries are probably more political than technical. Illegal immigration Down Under does not have the kind of constituency or the political juice, that it has in the US or Europe. It isn’t out of control because politicians want it to be out of control.  But that doesn’t mean it isn’t a potential problem even in Australia. The exemplary statistical reporting that David North extols clearly shows the percentage of immigrants in Australia is growing.  “According to the Australian Bureau of statistics in the past year net immigration contributed 64 per cent to population growth while natural growth accounted for 36 per cent.”  More and more Australians are acutely aware that immigration policy will determine the future makeup of the country.  Given Australia’s small population (21 million people on a continent the size of the lower 48, that impact will be decisive even on a small absolute numbers base.

Some regard immigration as beneficial while others, see it as bad. Environmentalists can see it as both good and bad; bad because they want to socially engineer an even smaller population but good in some ways if it moves things in the properly politically correct directions.

But the problems of Australia pale utterly before those facing Europe.  European societies have accumulated whole communities of millions who live unassimilated within their borders. Recently, German Chancellor Angela Merkel declared that its attempts to build a multicultural society had “utterly failed”.  Like the US, illegal immigration in Europe appears to be part of the political advantage for certain parties and part of the whole ethos of the European project. Some have argued that Germany, by deciding to be part of the wider world  had effectively forsworn its sovereignty and given up absolute control over its borders.

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Immigration debates have therefore become a leading indicator of some of the domestic political faultlines: green versus economic growth advocates, left versus right, globalists versus nationalists. Immigration is probably less about the outside world versus domestic politics as it is the international manifestation of domestic politics.


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