The earliest records of humanity show that some peoples have always sought to improve their situations by moving to somewhere else. Such movements have been over distances great and small. They have involved individuals, small and large groups, even masses of populations. Throughout most of history, however, these movements were not immigration. They were small and large migrations, diasporas, colonizations and the like, including what today we describe as temporary/guest worker activities. To be characterized as immigration requires that the host area be a sovereign state or controlled by a sovereign state.
Immigration throughout the world was mostly open (without effective restrictions) prior to the 1800s. It was generally a ‘push’ phenomenon – individuals were effectively expelled from their native lands and emigrated or were transported elsewhere, or individuals sought to leave their native lands for greater opportunity and freedom elsewhere. Beginning in the early 1800s, however, some nations began to ‘pull’ immigrants to their shores.
In modern history, some countries stand out as nations of immigrants. Countries whose populations consist almost entirely of immigrants and people descended from immigrants include the United States, Canada, Australia, Israel, Singapore and New Zealand. Since becoming an independent nation, the United States has taken in more immigrants than any other country – some 75-million legal immigrants plus millions more undocumented. The following table shows immigrant population (persons born elsewhere) of selected countries.
Historically, governments have allowed and controlled entry of immigrants for varying purposes, generally in accordance with perceptions of national needs, political efficacy or convenience. Immigration generally adds to a host country without detracting from its values when national purposes for immigration are thoughtfully articulated, immigration is implemented and controlled in accordance with those purposes, and immigrants are absorbed into the national culture in a timely fashion. Of course, immigration always has unintended consequences but, within a careful program, such can remain manageable. Absent careful thought and implementation, however, immigration may detract in ways that are undesired or damaging to the host country, sometimes disastrously.
All ‘nations of immigrants’ have, at one time or another, included accelerated population growth as a primary objective of immigration, and some still do. But most nations that welcome immigrants now profess many other reasons for encouraging or accepting immigration, especially economic and humanitarian rationale.
Oppression and disaster, natural and man-caused, have long made refugees of people in search of safety in new places. The surge of refugees following World War II led to the United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees (1951) and 1967 Protocol that define a refugee as “a person who owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality and is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country; or who, not having a nationality and being outside the country of his former habitual residence as a result of such events, is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to return to it.” The Convention and Protocol sets out the rights of individuals granted asylum and the responsibilities of nations that grant asylum.
Examining how various governments have dealt with migrants can help us clarify our own national interests vis-à-vis immigration, implement effective controls in accordance with those interests, and ensure timely acculturation of immigrants so as not to detract from national values or cultural identity. We will examine how we and others followed or deviated from the following guidelines for ensuring that immigration contributes effectively to national interests.
“Unless you know where you are going, any road will take you there.”2 This was Theodore Levitt’s way of telling corporate leaders that they must articulate a meaningful vision as a prerequisite for business success; that success is measured in the degree to which explicit goals
National interests require that immigrants become part of the culture of the host nation; they must abandon past loyalties and adopt the general ways of the host country – language, values, loyalties, morals, standards, etc. Acculturation must be rapid enough to avoid causing schisms in the culture of the host nation. Laws and practices that emulate or favor ‘old-country’ conditions and customs in contradistinction to those of the host country are barriers to acculturation.
Acculturation is the acquisition of pre-existing cultural norms dominant in the host country . . . whether through assimilation into the main cultural system or integration with the main cultural or multicultural system.
Some immigrants change their minds and return to their native lands. Most of those who remain in a host country, or their offspring, eventually become citizens of that country. Thus, immigration considerations are inextricably tied to questions of citizenship. Modern democratic states use combinations of four bases for conferring citizenship:
Historical accounts provide examples of immigration working well for host countries, and examples of immigration working not so well. We can learn from both. So we look at eleven cases that provide insight.
Ill conceived and poorly implemented immigration policy led directly to Mexico’s loss of Texas early in its life as a nation. Independence from Spain was won in 1821, and a Republic was formed with the constitution of 1824. The war for independence left Mexico in bad shape economically and politically. The populace of around six million was concentrated in central Mexico, where the mining industry and agricultural production had been devastated by the war.
From its very beginning the Republic of Mexico was torn by political factions, including the military and the church. But virtually all recognized the need to populate Mexico’s northern territories to keep them Mexican and protect against foreign (North American) encroachment.
Such was not generally feasible using Mexican nationals; the wellto- do would not choose to move to a frontier environment, and the government had no money to pay for relocating others (or for territorial security and infrastructure). So Mexico turned to immigration of foreigners, most notably, North Americans!
Colonization laws authorized and established conditions for immigration, facilitating the populating of Texas with North Americans. Key provisions accepted all immigrants who would swear allegiance to Mexico, profess the Roman Catholic religion, and agree to not bring slaves into Mexico. In return, each immigrant family received up to 5,165 acres of land for only a small fraction of what such land would cost in the United States. Payment terms were generous, and immigrants were exempted from taxes for ten years.
Citizenship did not require knowing the Spanish language or understanding Mexican history and culture. There was no practical need for
The pragmatic Anglos easily agreed to conditions for Mexican citizenship, while subverting them in practice. They quietly practiced their own (Protestant) religion, most immigrant colonies formulated their own legal practices, and prohibitions against slavery were subverted.
Trouble followed soon after significant numbers of Anglos began entering Texas, beginning with the short-lived Fredonia Rebellion in 1826. By 1830 Anglos in Texas outnumbered native Mexicans by about three-to-one, and by more than four-to-one by 1834.
Mexico’s 1824 Constitution combined sparsely-populated Texas with Coahuila, whose population of 196,000 included few colonists or Anglos. Administration of the state and final adjudications of its laws was centered in Saltillo, more than 500 miles from centers of Anglo population in Texas. Texans adapted by creating extra-legal procedures, they lobbied for more influence over the laws that affected them and they lobbied to separate from Coahuila and become a unique Mexican state. In this last effort they were never successful. Texans harbored a growing list of grievances against the Mexican authorities in Saltillo and Mexico City.
Mexican politicians came to realize they had serious problems with Texas and moved to gain firmer control. In 1829, President Guerrero ordered the emancipation of slaves throughout Mexico, a decree clearly directed against Texas. In 1830, Mexico banned all future immigration into Mexico from bordering countries, moved to encourage Mexican immigration into Texas, began strengthening Mexican garrisons in Texas and established a new coastal trade to strengthen economic ties between Texas and the rest of Mexico.
The law fueled ill will between Anglo and Mexican colonists, and it added to tension between the federal government in Mexico City and the State government in Saltillo as the latter began to lose control over its territory; it was banned from issuing land titles to squatters, for instance. And the law failed to attract Mexican colonists.
Open hostilities broke out in 1832 when the commander of Anahuac (Galveston) jailed William B. Travis for threatening to organize an attack from Louisiana to capture two fugitive slaves. Anglo colonists revolted,
A rebellion against their government by Mexican army officers broke out in central Mexico. When rebel Mexican soldiers landed in Texas in June, some Texans signed a petition in support of that rebellion (which was successful by the end of 1832).
In October 1832, Anglo Texans drafted petitions asking for free trade, that the prohibition against immigration from the United States be rescinded, that land titles be granted to squatters, and that Texas be separated from Coahuila. In late 1833 the new Mexican Congress agreed to allow renewed immigration from the United States, which was followed by a flood of new immigrants; by 1835 the Anglo population of Texas was around thirty thousand, and Anglo Texans outnumbered native Mexicans nearly ten to one.
On October 6, 1835, Mexico replaced the 1824 Constitution with a centrist system that ended any vestige of states’ rights. Texan influence on the laws that governed them was reduced to virtually none.
More fighting broke out. Texans won battles on October 10 near Goliad and in December at the Mexican garrison at San Antonio de Bejar. During the winter of 1835-1836 Santa Anna marched north, and the Alamo fell.
Texas declared itself an independent republic on March 2, 1836. On April 21, Texans under Sam Houston won the battle of San Jacinto. Santa Anna was captured two days later. While a prisoner, he signed the Treaties of Velasco, which ended the armed conflict.
Mexico never recognized the independence of the Republic of Texas but, nevertheless, Texas was lost. Many factors contributed, but it is clear that the large influx of North Americans, and Mexico’s handling of them, was dominant and decisive. This study chronicles relevant events, especially actions taken by Mexico to promote and, belatedly, control immigration.
Since becoming an independent nation in 1965, Singapore has used immigration very successfully in support of explicit national interests. Only a few hundred people lived in Singapore at its founding in 1819, but an open-door immigration policy drew thousands to the British colony during the 19th Century – mainly Chinese, Malays and Indians. By 1931, the population had grown to half a million. Most of Singapore’s population growth prior to World War II was from immigration, which resumed after the War, but on a reduced scale. From 1965 to 1980 net immigration was negative. Since then, immigration has become the most important component of Singapore’s population growth.
The British had made no effort to acculturate Singapore’s people into any common identity. Ethnic groups self-segregated into enclaves, many with abysmal housing and living conditions. Private schools in most ethnic areas taught in the language of the ethnic community, and sometimes provided additional language instruction in Chinese or English.
Singapore joined Malaysia in 1963, but incompatibilities between Singapore and Malaysia caused that nation to expel Singapore, which then became a sovereign state on August 9, 1965. Virtually all residents at that time were immigrants or descendents of immigrants – ethnically, 76.3 percent Chinese, 14.7 percent Malay, 7.4 percent Indian, and 1.6 percent other ethnicities.
The new nation immediately moved to solve economic and social problems – unemployment, inadequate housing, insufficient education, and lack of natural resources and land. Manufacturing was transformed to produce higher value-added goods. The service sector and commerce
There weren’t enough jobs to sustain the population growth in those years, so Singapore instituted efforts to reduce the birth rate, and immigration was sharply curtailed.
The Singapore Immigration Act 1966 specifies who may not enter Singapore. A Controller of Immigration appointed by the Prime Minister administers immigration policy, which includes curtailment of illegal immigration as a cornerstone. The Act defines “Prohibited Immigrants” in terms of individual characteristics – economic viability, health, criminal background, security indicators, etc. – and never in racial or ethnic terms. (There is indication, however, that racial considerations have been a consistent part of immigration policy.) Virtually all questions of interpretation and appeals are decided by the Controller of Immigration.
Singapore set out to transform its diverse populace into a multiracial and multilingual society unified by a sense of a unique “Singaporean Identity.” Major changes in education, housing and national service were put in place simultaneously with economic development, during which time the government used selective immigration to fill labor shortages.
A new educational policy aimed for equal treatment for the four streams of education – Malay, Chinese, Tamil and English; the establishment of Malay as the national language of the new State; and emphasis on the study of mathematics, science and technical subjects.
By 1970, 88 percent of Singaporeans were living in government housing, which was also used to integrate the races. Racial quotas were established to disperse people throughout the island in apartment complexes that reflected the racial makeup of the overall society.
The Singapore Armed Forces Act 1972 created National Service (NS), which requires virtually all males to spend two years in the military – an experience shared by all races, fostering patriotism, loyalty and the belief that all are responsible for defending the country.
By 1980, Singapore was not producing enough professional and technical workers. Worse, a “brain drain” of these people was growing, and Singapore’s birth rate was in sharp decline. Maintenance of its
Bringing in the required numbers of qualified workers as permanent residents would have significantly changed Singapore’s racial balance. Singapore didn’t do that. Instead, it sharply increased the number of temporary workers who could be repatriated much more readily if and when no longer needed. Together with students, entrepreneurs, and others, guest workers and their families had become 25.7 percent of Singapore’s total population by 2010.
Once approved, immigrants become Permanent Residents who, after two years, could apply for citizenship. Citizenship may be granted to any person who applies and meets specified requirements; it isn’t automatic. Until recent years the number of such approvals typically numbered well under 10,000 per year. Since 2005, citizenship approvals have risen sharply.
Prior to 2009, integration of immigrants had been handled by community organizations. But that year the Government set up a National Integration Council (NIC) to help new citizens integrate into Singapore society.
The percentage of Singapore’s Resident population born outside of Singapore has risen steadily from essentially zero in 1965 to 22.8 percent in 2010. Throughout this period the ethnic distribution of Singapore’s Residents has closely conformed to the government’s policies of racial stability; by 2010, that distribution had changed very little – 74.1 percent Chinese, 13.4 percent Malay, 9.2 percent Indian, 3.3 percent other (most change has occurred during the last decade).
Being Singaporean requires fluency in English, a neutral language for all ethnic groups and the accepted language of international business, science and technology. Most adult Singaporeans are multi-lingual – 75 percent are literate in English, 61 percent in one or more of the Chinese dialects, 18 percent in Malay, and just over 4 percent are literate in Tamil.
Immigration has been carefully used by Singapore since its founding to advance its clear national interests. It remains a vital and volatile issue for Singapore in the 21st Century. Vital, because Singapore’s fertility rate continues to decline, and volatile, because the government response has been to raise immigration and naturalization levels to record highs, which has caused growing opposition among Singaporeans.