May 8, 2021

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Joe Biden can save global migration from deep frost

4 min read


Donald Trump attacked them in word and in deed. The UK intended to reduce their numbers by leaving the EU. Yet immigrants might come to see the era before the coronavirus pandemic as a paradise of goodwill. Tighter borders in some countries have gone wild constriction in almost all. Economic stigma (immigrant as job thief) hardened into something more sinister (the immigrant as a vector of disease).

If she survives the pandemic, an ultra-low migration world would be less human and less efficient. Remittances, much larger than foreign aid, would dry up. The World Bank already expects them to succumb second year in a row. Countries that export low-wage workers should hire them from their homes or face who knows what consequences for their internal stability. Seen in the rich world as a source of civil unrest, the movement of people often prevents it elsewhere. The world is in danger of losing a pressure valve and material strength for good.

Little can prevent a lasting cooling of the migration. Reform in the opposite direction by the most powerful country in the world is one of them. A immigration bill presented by US President Joe Biden is hailed as the most radical change of its kind since 1986. This underlies it criminally. Whatever their content, previous reforms were of national or perhaps regional interest. This, by dint of timing, could push the world towards opening up at a pivotal moment in history.

In addition to naturalizing undocumented migrants, including those who arrived as children, the bill would relax the rules on skilled workers, students and parents of lawful permanent residents. Even in its changes of tone, the legislation is open. This nasty word “foreigner” is to become “non-citizen” in official discourse.

The ultimate proof of the bill’s ambition is that it will not survive Congress in its current form. Not necessarily. Republicans raise the moral risk of naturalizing undocumented migrants, even without blame. As the share of America’s foreign-born population approaches an all-time high, concerns about even its allowable growth are not naturally petty.

Half a loaf is therefore the maximum that will emerge from the legislative division. But even that would constitute a drastic act of openness on the part of the nation anchoring the international system; and it comes to worst moment for human mobility in a lifetime. As a moral example for other countries, it is quite striking. As a direct stimulus for global migration, it is potentially decisive.

In coldly numerical terms, an open United States equates to a rich and open world. In 2015/16, 39 percent of all migrants in OECD countries lived the. Germany, with just 10 percent, was second. A new flow of skilled workers to the United States would force more globalized economies – Britain, for example, or Singapore – to decide whether they can afford to let a nation monopolize them indefinitely. If there is to be a global labor market again, it will require circularity of competition for limited talent. He also calls for a disproportionate economy to start this process.

As troubled as it is, globalization has more obituaries than problems. Quietly, merchandise trade returned to its pre-pandemic level as soon as last november. A huge part of humanity has yet to join the modern economy, many of them only in India. Under Biden, even the US-China feud has a chance to end just before conscious decoupling.

It is migratory slaughter that most threatens the idea of ​​a cohesive world. What started as a transitional measure could turn into a resolute will.

If so, the caution will have gone mad. In terms of health, a nation has less to lose from immigrants than from tourists, business travelers or even visiting expats. No one who comes to live will mind a week or two of quarantine. Once installed, they have the same public health issue as citizens by birth. People of working age can also improve the ratio of taxpayers to retirees, just as countries have to foot the impressive bill for pandemic relief.

It is enough to name these varieties of cross-border traffic to see which will be the most difficult, politically, to revive. Having reached by an external shock the levels of migrants for which they once tried to legislate, the nativists will not blithely allow a sharp increase. Without one, however, the world give up economic growth as he leaves the pandemic behind. If all Biden’s Bill does is exempt the United States from this madness, it’s worth it. If that prompts other nations to follow, he may never do anything grander.

janan.ganesh@ft.com



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