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Human Migration

Are the lives of new immigrants in the modern world any better or much different than thousands of years ago when people migrated from place to place? Now that we are supposedly living in a more enlightened modern world, have we civilized the experience of new immigrants, or are they still dealing with institutional racism or discriminations that present daily challenges and obstacles to improving their lives?
Today most Western countries have many immigrants, though developed countries like the United States, Canada, and Australia have been built by immigrants.  Certainly Canada is a land of immigrants; the majority of its population consists of immigrants or the descendants of immigrants who arrived over the past 400 years or more.  Settlers first came from Europe, and at the present time immigrants from around the world are contributing to about half the annual population and economic growth.  In addition, recent immigration trends have made Canada more ethnically diverse than ever before. Modern immigrants often are more selective in where they live and ethnic groups tend to live together. As the ethnic and racial diversity in Canadian cities changes, concerns arise about the socio-economic integration of minority groups into the larger society, as well as about problems of discrimination that they may face in the housing and labour markets. Discrimination against immigrant groups in housing and labour markets may force immigrant into certain areas of the city and thus increase their spatial concentration and segregation from majority white populations who were born in Canada.

A better example of the todays segragation is France..... Segregation in France or Institutional Racism and White by Law

A Brief History of Migration

It is believed that something around 60,000 years ago, our ancestral father lived in Africa.

Spencer Wells (2002) reveals how developments in the cutting-edge science of population genetics have made it possible to create a family tree for the whole of humanity. We now know not only where our ancestors lived, but who they fought, loved, and moved away from, and who they influenced. Wells follows the trace of our origins back to a single group some 60,000 years in Africa, and from there how they moved throughout the world. His book is an epic tour through the history and development of the early human Diaspora.

According to Spencer Wells, examining human DNA shows that our recent ancestors originated in Africa and started their journey from there and ultimately throughout the world. The pressures for migration may have been to access more food or water, or the result of conflicts over resources. Some may have moved out of Africa hoping for more breathing room. Since that time 60,000 years ago, our ancestors have developed languages and culture in every corner of the world.  The movement of people over time is a major element in world history, with migration being a rich global heritage in humanity’s history.

From the time people started to farm and store foods and thus begin creating wealth, conflicts and wars have raged to determine who controls it. Some stayed and fought those wars to keep what they believed belonged to them, and some migrated away from the madness. Sometimes resource depletion or climate shifts caused humans to move on for water and food. Throughout history, migration has been intimately related to economic and social development. For thousands of years people have been moving from place to place, country to country and continent to continent. Sometimes they successfully settled in an area and lived in harmony with their arrival being seen as beneficial, while at other times it is seen as harmful to development, depending on the historical moment and circumstances.

Ancient migrations were largely quests for natural resources; mainly food and water.

 However for the past few centuries, many violent conflicts have produced displaced persons, migrants and refugees. In the last few decades, international migration crises have profoundly affected the deliberations of developed countries and their policy choices over the so-called worldwide security issue; a matter which may only add to discrimination and the racist attitudes of people.

Scientists and historians continually discover new information and interpret and analyze it to develop new insights into how long we have traveled through time and geography, and how much humanity has progressed. World history is the story of connections within the global human community and it portrays the journey of boundaries and the linking of systems in the human past. The source material ranges in scale from individual family tales to migrations of whole peoples to narratives encompassing all humanity. Analyzing the past shows migration as a sense of community connections and human development.
Human migration from one area to another and sometimes over long distances or in large groups has been seen throughout the history. The pressures of human migrations, whether as absolute take-over, such as in North America and Australia, or as slow cultural penetration and resettlement, have affected the grand eras in history "A shame faced by intelligent species." Forced migration can be a means of social control under authoritarian regimes, but freely initiated migration is also a powerful factor in social adjustment. The movement of populations in modern times has continued under the form of both intended and forced migrations, depending on the situation, circumstances and perspective. Currently, voluntary migration is an attempt by families to improve their environmental surroundings, political status, employment prospects and educational opportunities. Much has been written about migration and its processes, as well as settlement and adjustment issues regarding social and economic circumstances in a new country.

Even if violent conflicts force people into displacement and refugee status, the hope for those involved is always a better and more successful life. However, most refugees do not have the resources to move beyond neighbouring areas; they remain internally displaced or move across borders to first countries of asylum within their region, and their situation can often be more painful than living with hostilities in the country of the origin.

In the global picture, aid is provided to the developing countries hosting refugees, but there are tensions between poor host countries not having resources to deal with displaced migrants but also pleased to be receiving more aid because of them, and developed countries which recognize their dependence on immigrant labour but which also seek to stem the flow of people seeking asylum, though it is uncertain what effect such aid has in that regard.Policies of developed countries with respect to development aid, humanitarian relief, migration, and refugee protection are often internally inconsistent and occasionally mutually contradictory. Migration has been closely related to economic and social development which is often seen as the result of imbalances in development, but also as influencing development.

Modern immigration
The presence of newcomers (refugees, skilled workers, entrepreneurs, etc.) in places of settlement does have impacts on local integration, during and after resettlement in the new country. Among these effects, positive and negative, are: changes in local markets for food, housing, land, transport, and other goods, services and resources; changes in local labour markets; changes in the local economy and society shaped by the introduction of humanitarian assistance; demands on health care, education and other services; demographic changes, and related influences on health; influences on infrastructure; ecological and environmental changes.  As a result, many different organizations are formed to take care of such matters and help reduce settlement problems.  It is of interest to know how these institutional organizations are functioning and whether they are doing a satisfactory job in helping newcomers to adjust to their new home and contribute to their new society.

Another concern is ethnicity and ethnic identity.  Though these are factors deemed fairly permanent in our constitutions, they are also widely acknowledged to be profoundly dynamic; always in the process of being made and remade. It is evident, moreover, that the experience of migration and the challenges of a new environment often accelerate the pace of such change. Yet, although the issue of identity has become something of an intellectual theme lately, there is still a virtual absence of concretework on identity formation and change. It is very much a feature in both the relationships between migration and racism, and between ethnic identity and discrimination.
In Canada, discrimination in employment has been documented for over a century, and study of the racial discrimination component has recently drawn interest.  Before 1967, Canadian immigration policies showed a prejudice for European immigrants; however, with the emergence of more liberal and non-discriminatory laws as of October 1967, the characteristics of Canadian immigration began to change. Since 1968, roughly 2.8 million immigrants from Africa, Asia and Latin America have arrived in Canada. This new wave of immigration from Third World countries now constitutes two-thirds of the inflow to Canada.  However, even if the law now enables more people of colour to come to Canada, discrimination, in less obvious forms, continues.  Showing links between immigration and the Canadian political economy, some theorists (Basran 1983; Bolaria, 1988) have attempted to analyze the relationship between federal immigration policies and Canadian capitalist development, showing that Canada’s immigration and refugee policies are shaped by the economic context within which they emerge. Canadian immigration laws have promoted immigration policies favoring comparatively large inflows of immigrant workers during periods of economic expansion, and more selective inflows of skilled workers, entrepreneurs and visa workers in periods of economic recession.

Labour Market Discriminations, Institutional Racism, and Social Class
However, there is more to the admission of immigrants than the demands of the labour market.  Historically, whois admitted and how manyare admitted have been determined by three, often competing, factors: the desire to populate Canada with British people; the need to be respecting of and attentive to concerns of the international community; and economic requirements (Law Union of Ontario 1981:17).  Since 1968, the overturning of the “White Canada Policy” has resulted in immigration policies that have produced a much more multicultural country. The tendencies in Canadian immigration law and policy formation indicate that the content and objectives of laws and policies have been shaped by international obligations and economic. Having said that, an array of factors, including ideological and political considerations, has preserved an overall goal of maintaining control of immigration in discriminatory or selective ways.

In creating ostensibly non-discriminatory and reasonable legislation, questions emerge about who benefits from the laws, the intent of lawmakers, and whether the problems of racism in Canada are eliminated or worsened.  Fleras & Elliot (2002) portrayed immigration policies in Canada’s early history as racist in orientation, and assimilationist in objective.  In this era of legalized racism, policy-makers were determined to preserve the British character of Canada; excluding some people from entry, while encouraging others to settle. Potential migrants were ranked into categories, with preferred immigrants being drawn from Great Britain, the United States, and France; and to a lesser extent from northern and other western European countries. When these recruitment efforts failed to produce the large numbers required to settle Canada’s western prairie lands, the federal government extended its preferential policies to include other white immigrants such as Ukrainians, Italians, and Poles.
An exception occurred when a large work force was required for the building of the Canadian Pacific Railway.  A large number of Chinese entered Canada for that purpose, valued for their large supply and willingness to do undesirable work cheaply.  As long as there was no other source of labour available, Chinese railway workers were tolerated by the white workers. It is estimated that during the height of construction from 1881-1884, more than 17,000 Chinese, 10,000 directly from China, arrived in Canada (Li, 1998). After leaving China, they faced starvation and sickness on the boat trip, and in Canada they faced harsh winter conditions, dangerous work environments, and poor treatment.  It is estimated that at least 600 of them died during the railroad’s construction. However, when the CPR was completed, the Chinese were no longer needed, and became surplus labour in Canada.  The dominant race had maximized their profits from this cheap labour, and now white labourers felt threatened by the flood of cheap labour competing for scare jobs (Li, 1998).  The change in tolerance towards the Chinese immigrants was highlighted by mob attacks on Chinese communities in Calgary (1892) and Vancouver (1907).  As a result, pressure was put on the Canadian government to restrict immigration, and the federal government began passing highly discriminatory, exclusionary pieces of legislation to control immigration.  This highlighted the willingness of the government of the day to use non-whites or abandon them on economic whims, and with no respect for their humanity.

The Contribution of Immigrants
In recent years in Canada, ethnic groups have been encouraged to preserve and develop their ethnic cultures through the official multiculturalism policy introduced in 1971, and changes to immigration regulations in 1967 have removed discriminatory criteria and allowed Chinese people to come to Canada as independent immigrants. As a result, the number of immigrants from China has increased dramatically, aided by high academic and professional qualifications. Li has also argued that professional and skilled immigrants to Canada in the 1970s helped to make up a large part of the much-needed human capital that Canadian universities were unable to produce. For instance, between 1961 and 1974, Canadian universities graduated 180,382 students in science, engineering, and mathematics, but Canada admitted 91,079 immigrants in these fields. The number of immigrants admitted in some professions exceeded the number of Canadian university graduates in the same profession. Data from the 1996 Census indicate that immigrants made up 19 per cent of the workforce in all occupational groups, even though immigrants only accounted for 17.4 per cent of Canada's population. Thus, immigrants who are selected on the basis of educational and occupational skills are deemed to be more productive than those admitted for family relations or humanitarian considerations. However, the debate as to whether immigrants benefit Canada is controversial. The problem has to do with conceptual limitations and measurement difficulties in measuring the economic value of immigration (Li, 2002). Most studies indicate that immigrants have contributed to Canada in a variety of ways, and the weight of evidence suggests that Canada has benefited from immigration; but the general conclusion is that immigration brings a small but positive effect in terms of expanding Canada's labour force and increasing the per capita income.  There are, however, strong grounds to indicate that immigrants encounter unequal opportunities based on gender, race, and other features.
Peter Li demonstrated that the immigration debate has many dimensions, but at heart it has to do with whether the existing population defines newcomers as creating a net benefit or a net cost for Canada. Regrettably, such a debate cannot be resolved entirely on the grounds of academic research or scientific findings, since typical Canadians are likely to filter the arguments of immigration through their own experiences. In the immigration discourse, short-term considerations and short-sighted perspectives often eclipse the long-term significance of immigration.  Li confirmed that immigration has contributed to quite a large share of the growth of Canada's labour market, though the magnitude of contribution varies depending on the period; between 1986 and 1991, net immigration was responsible for 46 per cent of Canada's expansion in labour force, and between 1991 and 1996, 71 per cent.  But again the question is whether immigrants have equal share and opportunities in line with what they are contributing to Canada. In discussing the value of immigration, there is no evidence to suggest that immigrants have been harmful to Canada or its economy, but quite the opposite.  Most studies indicate that immigrants have contributed to Canada in a variety of ways, and that Canada has benefited from immigration. There is little support for the belief that immigrants are less productive than the native-born, but there are solid findings that suggest that immigrants, especially women and visible minorities, encounter unequal opportunities in Canada.

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Nasreen Pejvack-Copyright© 2011 All Rights Reserved

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