By John Karoly
Chicago, IL, USA
I was part of the last big wave of European immigration to the United States, having arrived just a few years past the middle of the last century. Looking from the perspective of quite a few years, I was in the latter part of the post World War II immigration boom. I left from the USAF base in Vienna (that was the airport of Vienna at the time) on a Super Constellation (four engine propeller plane) and after untold hours with breakfast in Scotland, lunch in Reykjavik, dinner in Newfoundland, we touched down at Newark, New Jersey. We were well transported, well received, but I got homesick for Europe almost immediately. It was December and the landscape with identical white houses in the Jersey countryside looked bleak. Later I was in New York City which was a relief to me having had a cosmopolitan feel and, of course, a vibrant life. I was well treated, invited to parties…. had no complaints. I was a political immigrant, as such I arrived penniless, probably much like the others.
Fast-forward to today and we are turning our borders into veritable war zones. We have a greater combined force in use at the US-Mexican border than in many parts of the world where there is an armed conflict that we were at one time participants or instigators of and where we still have a substantial geopolitical interest. The justification is to stop "illegal immigration." At the same time terrorists were allowed through our airports and border crossing points. Many years after 9/11 we have made numerous errors and according to experts, the now infamous ISIS terrorists are already in the country.
At one time this country advertised to the world: Send us your downtrodden. America was built by immigrants over the centuries; economic immigrants, political immigrants, religious immigrants and venture seekers. By and large the country was remarkably successful in turning all these people into successes and the country into the envy of the world. Indeed Americans regarded immigration as good, beneficial and many as uniquely American. Of course it was not.
Throughout history immigration was the norm, not the exception. In antiquity, nations went to war and captured and enslaved their enemy if they won, or were captured and enslaved if they lost. In any case they brought the slaves home or were kept at home by the winner. It was not exactly an ideal form of immigration but the slaves were kept to provide a labor force whether to help build Pyramids or for agricultural activity or aiding the conqueror with its future conquest or defense. Similarly, the US needed (cheap) labor and engaged in the much-maligned slave trade (bringing people into the country) shortly after its formation.
During the Middle Ages and even in later times, European nations were looking for immigrants. The success of any state depended on the number of its citizens. People were needed to make up for losses in wars, plagues and to add to the workforce. Nations throughout these times welcomed new arrivals, often named them according to the country they came from and readily integrated them into their societies. A large country with more citizens meant more power. Conversely, each state wanted to prevent its people from emigrating from the country and did what they could to enforce this and prevent people from leaving. Inter-European immigration and emigration was a very important phenomenon throughout the ages and left major marks on the history of almost every country.
For instance, to entice immigration into a country, kings and rulers went to the length of giving away land in exchange for settling on the land and cultivating it. Hundreds of thousands of people have taken up these opportunities over centuries.
But now, in modern times, the requirements, outlook and mentality are different. European immigration into the United States tapered off after the middle of the 20th century. The principle migration into this country is from Mexico and by now even this immigration has diminished with the majority arriving through Mexico, however, coming principally from Central America. Immigration into Europe is principally from Africa and the Middle East. These immigrants, for lack of better opportunities, live by themselves in poverty in the suburbs of major cities and lacking work, use the social services of the host country. Furthermore, the unemployed youth with time on their hands cause problems, increasing the crime rate. Needless to say these immigrants are not wanted people. Yet, that is all there is.
European countries have a major demographic problem as does Japan. The population is shrinking in almost every country in a dramatic fashion. If nothing else changes, the year the last Japanese will die has been computed. Germany's population is shrinking dramatically, yet the country, like Japan, is not inclined to give citizenship to non-Germans, that is, to anyone who cannot prove German ancestry. Even Russia's demographic is bad. After Stalin, who killed many millions of his countrymen, Russia is in a severe population decline. Of course, Hitler did no favor to Germany with the Second World War; he sentenced the country to the demographic problems it has with the many millions lost in the war. The consequences of the historically unequal evil powers of Hitler and Stalin had not only consequences at the Holocaust with its unspeakable mass murders, but also on the peoples of the countries that participated in these wars and were perpetrators or victims of these crimes. The mass murders of many millions of Poles and the war death of millions of people in countries participating or invaded in the war have devastated Europe. The total senselessness of the first and second world wars with the total deaths in excess of 90 million, a total which is larger than the population of today's France or Germany, will stay with us, if not forever, for a very, very long time.
Thus all these countries are in need of more people to survive and prosper, just as they were in the Middle Ages. But where are they going to get them? From where they are available, the countries don't want them. If they give in, Europe could eventually turn into an extension of the Middle East (North European Caliphate) and Africa, flooded by people from underdeveloped countries. This will be increasingly true if the tribal and religious wars in the Middle East continue. Other than the insane extremist fighting, the average man will be looking to get out, in increasing numbers and at all cost. The extremists will likely follow them. European culture could disappear in the process, or other undesirable surveillance systems could be established, at least temporarily, to control the immigration with the corresponding loss of democratic institutions. One is to fear, in the era of social networking and hugely powerful computers with near infinite storage capacity, how this demographic morass could end.
Democracy in Europe and elsewhere might establish, perhaps, totalitarian systems the likes of which we have not seen.
Now back to our situation in the US and our problems with illegal immigrants. As everyone knows, we have a large number of unwanted children coming into the country from, principally, Central America. This we deem to be a problem to us. Children without parents, without shelter and without a means for support; a human tragedy we need to deal with by stopping this immigration, the common wisdom goes. But, I submit this is a much larger problem for the countries they come from and for the desperate parents who would rather see their young children go into the unknown and go through life in uncertainty. Yet they are willing to risk all that and one assumes to pay for it! What a miserable situation that these countries give this dilemma to their citizens. Not only are these people doomed but so are their countries. It is a much larger human tragedy than ours. In fact, we are receiving children, who are the most adaptable to education and training. They are not old or sick people who would be, by definition, a burden on society. These children could learn to be very productive members of this society; they can be teachers, scientists, and mechanics, what have you. Not that we have a demographic problem similar to the countries discussed, our birthrate is still well above of Germany's 1.23, which is not even at replacement level, or close to it; but still we could have a problem and adding young people could not help but be a positive. Of course this does not mean that we should not use every measure to discourage the practice of endangering children's lives by sending them to the US. The measures which need to be taken will be to aid these Central American countries in fighting their criminals, who cause these migrations, and with criminal drug traffic that harms us as well as their own country and its population. If we want to protect our borders, we should perhaps protect the southern border of Mexico.
It is a new era we live today where immigration is no longer encouraged but fought with all available means, including political agendas in the countries of Europe and the US. It is a dramatic shift from mankind's past practice! Is it for the better? Probably not. Is there a way out of it? Probably yes for the United States and countries founded on immigration, but I cannot see a way out for many others.