Will Migrants Call the Shots?

090525-N-4774B-032As globalization continues, migrants are becoming a hefty policy issue.

By Rajendra Prabhu.

Will the immigrant populations in the U.S. significantly change the value and institutional systems of the nation? In his latest analysis of the American demographic in his book Who Are We?, Harvard professor Samuel P. Huntington (of Clash of Civilizations fame) poses this question as one of three scenarios he predicts for the America of the coming years. Some 26 million people from Latin America and the Caribbean nations now live in North America, and with them 16 million from Asian countries jostle about in their hunt for the American dream. The influence of migrants goes both ways as Central American countries feel the sway of their nationals living in the U.S. After all, out of 174 million Central Americans, as many as 16.3 million are living in the United States.

In our century, migration, both within nations and internationally, has become a cause of serious concern in poverty eradication as well as a major contributor to development not just in the U.S., which after all is a country made up mostly of immigrants, but globally. The United Nations has brought out two separate studies on international and national migrations, focusing on the many-sided problems they cause both in the host country and in the migrants’ country of origin. For both its challenges and its benefits, migration is an issue that cannot be ignored by policymakers.

After all, as India’s Minister for Rural Development Jairam Ramesh pointed out at the release of the U.N. report on national migrations, migrants’ remittances have become a major source of income — up to 30 percent of the state GDP in the Indian state of Kerala, for example. India as a whole gets an inflow of 65 to 70 billion dollars annually from its people living abroad with 45 percent of the money coming from West Asia. Kerala state alone gets over 20 billion dollars that has transformed the landscape—previously almost all thatched huts now being replaced with concrete ones—and generated the largest demand for passenger cars in the nation even though the Kerala population is only 30 million out of 1.2 billion Indians. Nationally, these remittances help substantially reduce the current account deficit that is a growing concern and has been eroding the value of the Indian currency month after month.

Not all migrant populations are as fortunate as those who have come from Kerala, but international immigration is now attracting serious focus on the part of national governments, international organizations, and human rights activists. “More persons are living abroad in 2013” than at any other time in human history, says the U.N. report. There were only 150 million in 1990; it rose to 175 million by 2000; and today the 232 million migrants living abroad in 2013 constitute over three percent of world population. This percentage influences …

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