A Global View on the Concept of Immigration

Chika Obi

© Copyright 2018 by Chika Obi

Photo of a poster about a Nigerian celebration in Houston.

By way of formal definition; "Globalization is a process of interaction and integration among the people, companies and governments of different nations, a process driven by international trade and investment and aided by information technology"[2].

More so, globalization exists, based on the reality of the fact that, nations of the world, exists in varying levels of development, acceptability and suitability. Subsequently, all these and many more factors are subject to government policies, values and personal orientation. With time, they either advance productively or deteriorate. Based on the above premise, one can say that globalization, is propagated by a group of individuals’ intention, to acquire something new and beneficial; in virtually all facets of life or existence.

In other words, the uniqueness embedded in each nation, coupled with the needs and desires natural in humans and nations is the origin of the current global interdependence and interconnectedness. At this, we can say the nations of the world, are momentarily united by interest. Hence, the idea of migration and integration.

Migration is the movement of people from one place to another. Migration happens for a range of reasons. These can be economic, social, political or environmental (3)”. Of course, this movement of people, can be within or outside a national border; governed by the binding laws of the location in question.

According to United Nations Conventions on the rights of migrants, the term 'migrant' should be more holistic than it is predominantly conceived. That is to say, it should as well be understood as a term, covering all cases where the decision to migrate is taken freely by the individuals concerned, for the reasons of 'personal convenience' and without intervention of external compelling factors [4].

Furthermore, migration is a pivotal concept in the existence of humanity, which of course can never be ignored or hyperbolically expressed. Owing to its role in the fostering of globalization. Migration in this context refers to an aspect of mass movement from one border to another - immigration.

In addition, “Immigration relates to the movement of peoples from one country into another; for residential rather than visiting purposes “[5]. This comes in various dimensions, as bound by sovereign national laws. Individuals who make these movements – immigrants, do so, in the light of various reasons or factors - Push and Pull factors

Here, the ‘Push factors’ , refer to those factors for which individuals are forced to move out of their countries, into other countries .Such factors include, but are not restricted to the following; civil war, famine, drought and lack of jobs. Also the ‘Pull factors’ fundamentally refer to those factors or reasons, which inform or encourage an individual or individuals’ decision to move into a country. These factors include the following; better standard of living, education and chances of a better job [6]. All these factors; whether pull or push, are broadly classified into; political, social or economic factors.

More so, the concept of immigration has undeniably been such a critical and sensitive phenomenon. It is obviously a global concept, owing to its universality and relatedness to nations and mankind in general. In that regard, immigration can be said to be as old as humanity.

Nevertheless, historical accounts on immigration tend to vary from nation to nation, border to border and continent to continent. But on the global stage, a certain account – out of various accounts, has it that, various identifiable groups of individuals were known to move from region to region; dating back to sometime in 3000BC. Obviously, this movement of people significantly added to the redefinition of the human story in varying facets [7].

Independent nations have their varying historical versions of immigration. But one thing remains obvious, and that is the fact that, the idea of immigration fundamentally stems from the uniqueness and capacities of sovereign nations, as well as the desires and circumstances, in which individuals exist.

Whatever these desires and circumstances might be, individuals are only legally allowed beyond a nation’s border, only at the fulfillment of the nation’s laws – immigration laws. No doubt, these immigration laws are tied to the uniqueness and capacities of such sovereign nations. Non-observance or partial observance of these laws, births forth the idea of illegal immigration - hence, illegal immigrants.

Illegal immigrants, as commonly understood, are individuals who moved into a country, without the full fulfillment of the legal obligations as required by the law. Immigrants can as well turn their stay in a particular nation to an illegal one, at the expiration of their existing travel documents; depending on their status or initial conditions that legalized their entrance.

For instance, in Nigeria, citizenship can either be by; Birth, Registration or Naturalization. By birth, such individual can still gain citizenship, even if born outside Nigeria, but provided either of the parents is a citizen of Nigeria. By registration, the President confers on the individual the status of citizenship, provided among other reasons; the individual has shown a clear intention to be domiciled in Nigeria and has taken the Oath of Allegiance prescribed in the Seventh Schedule of the constitution. The individual must firstly be of good character; with two people to testify to that, one of whom must be a Religious minister. All these provisions are also applicable to a woman who has been betrothed to a citizen of Nigeria. More so, Nigerian citizenship by naturalization can be conferred on any individual, after it has been confirmed that such individual is of full age, full capacity and good behavior; and must have resided in Nigeria for a period of fifteen years [8]. These are among several other provisions, as enshrined in the constitution.

Whereas in the United States, Section 1 of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution stipulates that , every individual that was given birth to or was naturalized in the United States , and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are legal citizens of the country, and of the states in which they reside. A child is granted automatic citizenship, if both of his parents, were citizens of the United States as at the time of his or her birth. Or one of the parents of the said child, lived in the country, prior to the birth. More so, an individual not born a United States citizen can gain citizenship through the process of naturalization. And for an individual to be eligible for citizenship by naturalization, such individual must be; at least eighteen years of age, a legal permanent resident of the United States, and had earlier acquired legal permanent residency in the country for five years, prior to their application [9].

The nations aforementioned are sovereign nations. The immigration laws of each of them are supreme and explicit. Again, the uniqueness and similarities of these laws, in line with the universal compliance, further reiterates the idea of immigration, as a global concept, which is unending and dynamically advancing.

Based on the estimation from the United Nation report of 2015, in 2013, the United States, Germany and Russia had the largest number of immigrants of any country, while Tuvalu and Tokelau had the lowest. In essence, United States recorded about forty-six million foreign-born population (3.3% of total population), Germany recorded about twelve million foreign-bon population (14.3% of total population), while Russia recorded about eleven million of same population (7.7 % of total population). On the low side of the estimates; Tokelau recorded about four hundred and eighty-seven foreign-born population (25.4 % of total population), while Tuvalu recorded about One hundred and forty-one foreign-born population (1.6 % of total population). terms of percentage of population the Vatican City and the United Arab Emirates had the highest; 100% , 83.7 % respectively. While North Korea had the lowest, 0.2%.

According to estimates from the same UN 2015 report, in 2013, India had about twenty-five million native-born persons (2.17% of total population) living outside India, while Mexico had the second highest number of native-born persons living in a foreign country; about twelve million (8.85% of total population). On the lowest mark: San Marino had about two thousand, three hundred and three native-born people living outside the country (6.60% of total population) ; the second lowest. Tokelau had about two thousand, two hundred and fifty-five native people living outside Tokelau (61.51% of total population); the lowest on this mark [10].

Reasons behind movement of individuals from region to region, nation to nation, can be broken down as ‘Push factors’ and ‘Pull factors’. Push factors are those which force a person to move. This can include drought, famine, lack of jobs, over population and civil war [11].

Prior to the devastating earthquake in Haiti on 12th January, 2010, the nation of Haiti ranked 145th out of the 169 countries in the Human Development index; during the occasion of the 20th anniversary edition of the United Nations Development Programme’s (UNDP) Human Development Report. Of course in the Western Hemisphere, this was the lowest. More than 70% of residents of Haiti lived on meager income per day. 86% of people living in Portoau Prince lived in slum conditions, poorly-built buildings. These, coupled with the7.0 magnitude in 2010, which affected about 3,500,000 people, prompted the mass exodus of Haitians away from their borders [12].

Based on reports from Reuters, about 95,000 Sudanese left the country in 2012. This is against about 10,032 that left in 2008. Out of all those seeking to leave the country, 4% wanted to leave for political reasons, 5% for security reasons and 79% aspired to leave, seeking improved living conditions [13].

More so, the ‘Pull factors’ are summarized reasons why people move to a particular area or country. Some of these reasons include; Higher employment, better education , better services, food, climate, political stability and more fertile land [14].

Based on the significantly better living standards and services in America, such as healthcare, thousands of Mexicans are enticed to come over. Statistics show that 86.1% of the Mexican population is literates, with the average school leaving age being 14 while the United States has 99% of its population as literates, with the average school leaving age being 16. Therefore, in search of better educational standards, Mexicans move into the United States. [15].

Whether the reasons are economic, environmental, social or political, the issue of mass migration speculatively appears unending. According to Gideon Richman; “Mass migration into Europe is unstoppable. Population pressures in Africa and the Middle East will drive immigration far into the future” [16]. The gains of immigrant cannot be easily overrun.

According to a post on the White House Home Blog by Jackson Furman and Danielle Gray, immigrants have never ceased being of importance to the American economy. It was reported that immigrants are 30% more likely to start a business in United States. Also, 18% of all small business owners in the country are owned by immigrants. Of course, this business help create jobs for the American workers. According to the Fiscal Policy Institute, small business owned by immigrants employed an estimated 4.7million people in 2007, and relaxing to the latest estimate, the small business generated over 770billion dollars annually [17].

More so, according to the Census Bureau, immigrants in the US represented 33% of Engineers ,27% of Mathematicians and 24% of Physical Scientists. Also, reports from partnership for a new American Economy in 2011, has it that foreign-born inventors were credited with over 75% of patents, issued to 10 patent – producing universities [18].

In as much as the benefits of migration remain numerous; both to the host and the hosted, there obviously remains an ugly side to the tale.

The nation of France in 2015, recorded its deadliest year, in terms of fatalities caused by terrorist attacks; though in 1996, it recorded its highest number of attacks. The Paris attack on November 13th, 2015, remains the bloodiest [21]. This is not to forget the deadly effects caused by the Charlie Hebdo attack on January7th, 2015, Nice terror attacks in July 14th,2016, as well as the Normandy Church attack on Tuesday, July 26th, 2016, alongside a few others [19].

The third week in July 2016 was reported as the week of attacks that shocked Germany. Among four of these attacks is the Ansbach blast on July 25th, 2016, where a 27-year old Syrian, who was denied asylum, set off a bomb, which reportedly has metal fragments. Also, on 24th July, 2016, there was a 21-year old Syrian refugee killed a woman with a machete, injuring two other people [20].

Worldwide, migrants face a lot of oddities in the hands of natives of their host countries. Prior to 1994, migrants from several parts of the world faced discrimination and violence in South Africa. Even after democratization in 1994, the xenophobic attacks increased, of which about 67 people died, between 2000 and March 2008, the most recent being the attacks on foreigners in 2015 [21].

A twist of the above submissions is in the Yemeni nation. Yemeni is a country with far less population of migrants compared to France, Germany and their likes. Yet, it records worsening security and economic concerns. Owing to the devastating civil war in Yemeni, its overall economic freedom has been relegated in the 2016 index [22]. That is to say, the end to the security and economic woes of nations will not necessarily come by completely shutting the borders against yet-to-come migrants or driving out the resident immigrants. There are obviously other ways – depending on the severity of the issues and the nations involved.

Some years ago, in one of the countries that had a heated case of homophobia, a respected figure was reported to have made a very inciting public statement. A statement that was said to have escalated the homophobic crisis. In a modern day society, such a thing should be sternly discouraged. This is in a bid to make safer, the world of immigrants and also encourage immigration. A nation bedeviled with cases of homophobia, is bound to have a reduced number of immigrants, thereby losing out in the potential gains. Again, host nations will need to do more, in enacting immigrant-protective laws. This is not to blindly give any individual a soft landing, but to give the foreign-born residents, a level-playing ground.

More so, there have been cases of abuse of this level-playing ground by some immigrants – stories abound .In such cases, the law can plainly take its course as a deterrent. Sovereign nations are enjoined to keep beefing up their security – not treating immigrants as potential threats. Borders should never be let loose. Immigration laws should never be unreasonably loosened or tightened – strong background checks, scrutiny; electronic or manual and objective sampling of opinions can do the job. The nation’s interest remains paramount. But whatever is the case; immigration continues to be a global phenomenon and concept and should be treated as such. The ills should be decisively dealt with, and the gains, largely encouraged.


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(2018, May 23)

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