Saturday, September 13, 2014

Immigrants Flooding Across Borders: Sweden vs the USA

 In an article in today's New York Times about the role immigration is playing in Swedish elections, it was pointed out that 15% of people living in Sweden were born outside the country. The figure for the USA is 13%. 

For Sweden, immigration places special burdens because the ways have come recently and in explosions--Albanians after the Kosovo war and now Iraquis and Syrians. And in Sweden, with its cradle to grave healthcare, provisions for maternal and paternal leave after childbirth and other governmental social programs, the cost of these newcomers is born by the government to an extent not seen in the US.
 One political party has said it is time to stop the flow of beggars into the country. 
But the candidate of what is described the "Right/Center" party has said the nation should be open hearted and he avers immigrants are actually good for the country, in the long run. Presumably, he is referring to the demographics:  Immigrant famiilies tend to be young and the Swedish population, like the American population, is aging; there have to be young workers to support the retirees, down the road. Assuming the newcomers become productive workers, eventually, rather than just one more group which needs to be taken care of by those who continue to work. 

 One Swedish voter interviewed said simply, the immigrants simply cost too much. There was no ethnic slur there, simply an arithmetic computation.

And the cost is not shared equally among all Swedes. National government money flows to local towns and municipalities in a way which does not send more money to towns where immigrants are heavily concentrated, and as it turns out, many of the wealthier areas have only small populations of immigrants.  One can imagine, new immigrants do not wind up in Scarsdale, Chevy Chase or Winnetka, but tend to flow toward the parts of Sweden where the ragged people go, to quote Paul Simon.
For centuries, plagues, famine, wars in one country have triggered Exodus from the afflicted area to happier parts of the globe. Those already well ensconced in the happy areas are like the comfortable folks on the life boat and they begin to fear that pulling more people on board will threaten their own welfare.

The most common response by those who fear the less fortunate is that they deserve their fate, are threats and morally culpable for their own misfortune. We certainly saw that in Arizona, Texas and California. Rick Perry and other Republicans spoke of the pestilence, rape and danger which were arriving with those Spanish speaking people flooding across the border. They had a tough time demonizing the children who have been the latest wave, but they did suggest some of the children were randy, rapacious adolescents who did not deserve sympathy, and even the children were diseased, and the Republicans did everything but invoke Ebola virus as what those children were bringing across the border.

In the 21st century, images can be rapidly invoked and for all the repellent images of outsiders, "undesirables" there are also others, which might suggest it might not be so bad to have a few new faces in our country. 

The Roma, pictured above, are among the most difficult group for Westerners to sympathize with--but then, there are some images which might suggest, well, maybe we could accept some of them.

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