SocialDevelopment and Migration
Historically,migration has been closely associated with economic and socialdevelopment, with the general belief being that, it leads toimbalances in development and at the same time driving development.There have always been controversies on the way immigrationinfluences development. However, there has been a general idea isthat, immigration and social development are intertwined. Dependingon the perspective one looks at it, immigration has both positive andnegative influence on social development. First, migration is definedas the movement of people from one place to the other. The reasonsfor migrating are varied including search for employment, search fora better life, conflict in the home country, among other reasons. Immigration has transformed the United States as a nation throughouthistory, dating back over 400 years ago when the first immigrantsstepped into the U.S soils (Ratha,Sanket, and Elina 66).Besides being an influential demographic drive for how thedetermining how the country and its people became what they are now,immigration has largely contributed to several of the economic,political as well as social processes that are the foundation of whatthe country is today.
MigrationOverview in the US
Eventhough immigration has happened throughout American history, massiveimmigration has occurred during for major periods including thepeopling of the original colonies, westward growth during the mid19thcentury, the rise of cities in the wake of the 20thcentury and finally, the period of the 1970’s that has persistenttill today. These four peak periods have had significant influence inthe American economy. They have coincided with significant economictransformations. The peopling of the original colonies for examplesaw the beginning of European settlement in America the westwardexpansion in mid 19thcentury led the newly formed United States to transit from a colonialeconomy into an agricultural economy industrial revolution that camewith the rise of cities led to a manufacturing economy that saw theU.S become a leading power in the world (Trương and Gasper 130).Finally the last phase of immigration that started in the 1970’s todate has contributed to globalization and a shift from amanufacturing economy into a knowledge-based economy of the 21stcentury. A common denominator in immigration during these periods hasbeen the need for America to adapt to emerging economic realities.
Itis quite difficult to define the impacts of migration on developmentas positive or negative, since the outcome is entirely dependent onthe perspective and timeframe that one uses in evaluation.Nevertheless, there are obvious views that one can be able to relateto development. Majority of immigrants and their beneficiaries havebenefited from migration through improvement of their livingstandards, acquiring land and water, as well as investing in businessenterprises. Consequently, migration oriented change has beenattributed with increasing social and economic prejudice (Singh,Kapil, and Rabindranath 136). For example the more vibrant migrantinvestors seem to belong to families with a higher social economicstatus in the rural, which leads to the debate whether migrationreally contributes to poverty eradication. Ideally, the interest ofmigrants towards development is motivated by legitimate personal andfamily needs. Only secondarily are migrants concerned in promotingthe development of the greater communities or regions (Singh, Kapil,and Rabindranath 128).
Theinclination of migrants towards investment varies depending on thespecific migration and integration experiences. Much of theintegration in the receiving societies usually coincides withincreased capabilities to invest in the donor country. Whereas it isnot clear how integration levels affect migrants involvement intransnational operations, the assumption that transnational behavioris a reflection of bad integration is debatable.
Inaddition, the activities of migrants and investment types change withtime. In the United States, most of the immigrants were slavesworking in the fields. After abolition of slavery, immigrants startedworking in the formal sector and today, immigrants are fullyparticipatory of the economic, social and political system in thecountry. As such, more and more educated, skilled and experiencedimmigrants are entering the United States more than before. With thecountry struggling with the issue of unemployment, this influx ofprofessionals is a threat to the country’s effort to tackleunemployment issues (Trương and Gasper 122).
Theeffects of migration to the greater social phenomena cannot beunderestimated. Immigration affects social development throughinfluencing democratic institutions. The influx of people in the UShas not been without negative influence on the values, culture andthe beliefs of the Americans as a people. Through the interactionwith immigrants, the country has been forced to put policies in placeto support immigration and control it at the same time. This has ledto heated debate among politicians as well as the people. Thedivision has not been healthy. Some advocate for immigration arguingthat immigration provides important labor force in the informalsector that would otherwise be difficult or expensive locally.Opponents of this view argue that, immigrants have taken importantjobs, and have provided ready labor, hence lowering demand and hencewages (Singh, Kapil, and Rabindranath 78).
Thegreater social effect in the U.S brought about by immigration hasbeen costly to the economy. For example, the influx of illegalimmigrants in the states has been blamed for increased crime,including the flourish in drugs, human trafficking, and prostitutionamong other social problems. The ripple effect has seen the U.S usebillions of dollars in incarcerations, deportation, and security aswell as boarder protection. The general resources used to deal withthe issue of migration in the country are substantially worrying.
Lookingat the social cost of migration to the sending country, the image iseven worse. Whereas people migrate to the US to enhance their livingstandards and eradicate poverty in their families, the social damageis big. First, people have to leave their families behind, includingchildren growing without their parents, hence weakening family ties.Secondly, the general erosion of family structure leads to erosion ofmoral values in the sending country. This cycle is detrimental fordevelopment in the sending country in the long run (Cortina 123).Besides, even when immigrants in the US are able to make goodremittances, they may not be helpful in their home country as theyare largely used to buy food, clothing and cars. Also some of thecountries that immigrants coming to the US originate from are in apolitical crisis, engulfed with civil wars and ethnic clashes. Thismakes it difficult for the remittances to be put to any economic oruseful commercial enterprises. Thus, the perceived social-economicdevelopment that migration is expected to bring is not achieved inthe end. This calls for strong policy development in regard tomigration for both the host and the country of origin.
Todeal with immigration, the United States adjusts it policiesminimally due to the political pressure that is associated with thisissue. Consequently, immigration policy has not been linked to thesocial and economic forces that determine immigration. In instanceswhere changes have been made, they usually take a long time tolegislate.
Currently,the U.S may be on the threshold of key new reforms that would dealwith the longstanding problems of illegal immigration, and also thosein legal migration system which has never been rationalized since the1990’s. The drive for comprehensive immigration reforms (CIR)remains at the congressional phase, where bipartisan in both theHouse and the Senate engage in heated negotiations to designlegislations that would enhance enforcement at the country’sboarders and within boarders, legitimize more than 11 million currentillegal immigrants and streamline structures that will allowemployers in the United States access workers in the future when theyneed them. CIR has been somehow been considered as from 2001 althoughmajor debates in the Senate were in 2006 to 2007. Failure of CIR inthe Senate led to sidelining of the immigration law in the US. Thevoting pattern and the results of the 2012 general election mandatedpoliticians from both ends to revisit the issue (Cortina 154).
Lookingback at the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986, (IRCA) whichwas passed by the congress to deal with illegal immigrants, as wellas the current Comprehensive Immigration Reforms (CIR), it is clearthat the approach to immigration has not been easy. Whereas thepolicies have interest in restricting illegal immigrants into thecountry they both compromise the nation by legitimizing the alreadyexisting illegal immigrants.
Traditionally,immigration destinations were in the states of New Jersey, New York,Texas, Illinois, Florida and California. The ICRA policy failed tocontain the situation as immigration surge continued to other statesin a worrying trend including the southwest, mountain and Midweststates which previously did not have such migration experiences. Eventhough migration served as a source of economic growth and suppliedyounger workers where population was aging, most of the immigrationconsisted of illegal immigration flow.
Forthe United States to harness the full economic and social potentialof migration, and curbing its negative influence, migration should beintegrated into development policies in the country. Enhanced datacollection together with capacity building is required to make surethe ability of the government to plan and implement strategies toenhance labor mobility, at the same time protecting the rights of themigrants. Ultimately, migration and remittances both individual andcollective can be a useful complement to wider based developmentefforts, but they should not be considered as substitute to formaldevelopment aid. This is possible through policy which can aid inachieving optimally from immigration. The United States has a richhistory of immigration and the lessons learnt from its pastexperiences can be a powerful tool in informing policy makers on theway forward.
Cortina,Jeronimo. New perspectives on international migration anddevelopment. New York: Columbia University Press, 2013. Print.
Ratha,Dilip, Sanket Mohapatra, and Elina Scheja. "Impact of migrationon economic and social development: A review of evidence and emergingissues." (2011). Print.
Singh,Amita, Kapil Kapoor, and Rabindranath Bhattacharyya. Governanceand poverty reduction: beyond the cage of best practices. NewDelhi: PHI Learning, 2009. Print.
Trương,and D Gasper. Transnational migration and human security themigration-development-security nexus. Berlin New York: Springer,2011. Print.