Immigrants Will Do But They Have To Be Useful

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Mukta Kaushik

New Delhi : Immigrants are generally not welcomed whether in USA, India or any other country. If they cross the borders without legal sanction, they are considered as infiltrators or illegal residents. However, immigrants are also sought after as demand for working hands, specialists and experts but this requires fulfillment of administrative or legal process.

There are some attributes that provoke positive or negative reactions amongst immigrants, particularly illegal immigrants. A study was undertaken in USA to understand these attributes. The same reasons could be well attributed towards India’s skepticism about Bangladeshi immigrants. For the purpose of study, a population-based sample of US citizens was put in the position of immigration policymakers and they were asked to decide between pairs of people applying for immigration to the US and then by using statistical methods for this “Choice-based Conjoint Analysis”, the attributes which make immigrants more or less favored were identified.

The factors which were analyzed were: “Economic Self-Interest and Socio-tropic Concerns” where the immigrants are viewed as competitors for scarce jobs (Simon, 1989; Kessler, 2001; Scheve & Slaughter, 2001; Mayda, 2006; Malhotra, Margalit, and Mo, 2011; Dancygier & Donnelly, 2011) and according to socio tropic account Americans prefer well educated, experienced, high-status professionals who can contribute economically to the country through payment of taxes.

Another factor analyzed was “Prejudice & Ethnocentrism”- those who hold negative stereotypes about immigrants (Burns & Gimpel, 2000) or more biased implicit associations (Perez, 2010) are more opposed to immigration. Ex: native-born, non-Hispanic, white American is likely to support more immigrants of European descent. Their preference is based on skin tone. With regards to the Middle East, threats of terrorism could exacerbate such differences (Gadarian, 2010; Branton et al. 2011; Schildkraut, 2011).

Another factor analyzed was “American Identity & Norms” native born evaluate immigrants primarily on their norms related to American identity (Schildkraut, 2011). American strongly identify with their nationality (Theiss-Morse, 2009; Wong, 2010) and are concerned that immigration might dilute national identity. These norms are nothing but the respect an immigrant show to their culture and thus indicate towards assimilation (Schildkraut, 2005; 2011). They favor more who come to seek job opportunities rather than those who seek asylum or reunion with family. They despise those who enter without authorization.

It was finally concluded that Socio-tropic explanation and norms-based explanations receive strong support. Respondents express a pronounced preference for immigrants who are well educated, in high-skilled professions and have plans to work upon arrival. They prefer immigrants with no unauthorized prior trips and who speak English.

Coming down to the Indian scenario, during the Bangladesh Liberation War many Bangladeshi crossed over to Indian side to save themselves from massive genocide and rape. Most of such people never went back and settled in India. These illegal immigrants have been defined in Assam Accord as those who infiltrated after 24 December 1971. The problem became severe after 1991 census when the pattern of the abnormally high growth rate of Muslims was observed in the border states of Assam and West Bengal. In the state of West Bengal in the year 1961-71 the growth rate of
Muslim population was 29.76% and of Hindu population was 25.75% whereas for the year 2001-11 the Muslim population growth rate turned out to be 21.81% and Hindu rate was 10.81%. Whereas in the state of Assam these rates for Hindu and Muslim populations in the year 1961-71 were 34.49% and 29.89% respectively and for the year 2001-11 were 10.89% and 29.59% respectively (Wikipedia: Illegal immigration to India). This created tensions for the community at large as well as for the policymakers as the whole demographic profile of the place was getting disturbed.

An example may be quoted of Kokrajhar riots. This area is largely inhabited by the Bengali speaking Muslim population and Bodos. The land resources are scarce given the large population and this imbalance has to violence. Besides, the demography has greatly changed due to large scale settlements of illegal immigrants. So, in India, the major attribute of skepticism is an economic opportunity. People whose economic opportunities suffer due to migrants tend to revolt. Another reason common with USA’s attribute is self-identity. As in USA, due to changing demographic scenario the indigenous population became skeptical of immigrants.

However, the final draft of National Register of Citizens has been published and as many as 4 million people do not figure in the list. Such people might be transferred to immigrant’s camps till they are deported to Bangladesh. The scenario is similar to USA where Trump administration is cracking the whip on illegal immigrants, particularly from Mexico and other neighboring countries.

1. Simon, Julian L. 1989.The Economic Consequences of Migration Oxford. Cambridge: Black- well.

2. Kessler, Alan. 2001. “Immigration, Economic Insecurity, and the ‘Ambivalent’ American Public.” Center for Comparative Immigration Studies, University of California at San Diego, Working Paper 41.

3. Scheve, Kenneth and Matthew Slaughter. 2001. “Labor Market Competition and Individual Preferences over Immigration Policy. Review of Economics and Statistics 83(1):133–145.

4. Mayda, Anna Maria. 2006. “Who is Against Immigrants? A Cross-Country Investigation of Individual Attitudes towards Immigrants.” The Review of Economics and Statistics 88(3):510–530.

5. Malhotra, Neil, Yotam Margalit and Cecilia Mo. 2011. “Economic Explanations for Opposition to Immigration: Distinguishing between Prevalence and Magnitude.” Available online at: ym2297.

6. Dancygier, Rafaela, and Michael Donnelly. 2011. “Sectoral Economies, Economic Contexts, and Attitudes toward Immigration: Do Economic Considerations Shape Attitudes toward Immigration?” Mimeo, Princeton University. s_economic_context_and_attitudes_toward_immigration.pdf

7. Burns, Peter and James G. Gimpel. 2000. “Economic Insecurity, Prejudicial Stereotypes, and Public Opinion on Immigration Policy.” Political Science Quarterly 115(2):201–225.

8. P ́erez, Efren O. 2010. “Explicit Evidence on the Import of Implicit Attitudes: The IAT andImmigration Policy Judgments.” Political Behavior 32(4):517–545. Attitudes-1.pdf

9. Gadarian, Shana K. 2010. “The Politics of Threat: How Terrorism News Shapes Foreign Policy Attitudes.” The Journal of Politics 72(02):469–483.

10. Branton, Regina, Erin C. Cassese, Bradford S. Jones and Chad Westerland. 2011. “All Along the Watchtower: Acculturation, Fear, Anti-Latino Affect, and Immigration.” Journal of Politics 73(3):664–679.

11. Schildkraut, Deborah. 2011. Americanism in the Twenty-First Century: Public Opinion in the Age of Immigration. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.

12. Theiss-Morse, Elizabeth. 2009. Who Counts as an American? The Boundaries of National Identity. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.

13. Wong, Cara J. 2010. Boundaries of Obligation in American Politics: Geographic, National, and Racial Communities. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.


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