Basic rights, membership and the UK’s toxic immigration debate

by Chris Bertram on May 21, 2014

From Monday we’ll be running an online symposium on Joseph Carens’s brilliant The Ethics of Immigration. (It is the book that sets a new standard for what “long-awaited” means.) So stay tuned. Meanwhile, I was speaking yesterday at a seminar organized by Democracy Forum at the House of Commons on “Immigration: Liability or Asset”. My talk, which shows the influence of Carens’s work in many respects, is below the fold.

Immigration: liability or asset?

Many people, asked whether immigration is a liability or an asset, will interpret the question in a straightforwardly economic way. They will wonder what the economic facts are, and whether immigration tends to boost national prosperity or whether it imposes unacceptable costs on that stock character from political rhetoric, “the taxpayer”. Those broadly in favour of immigration, if they suspect the economic facts may be against them, will then sing the benefits of cultural diversity and ethnic cuisine. Those against it will warn darkly of the low tolerance of voters for too much change and point to actual or imagined popular anxieties about the disappearance of the familiar.

I have no special expertise on the economic questions and I am also somewhat sceptical about how far it is a legitimate goal of public policy to promote or defend private tastes and preferences about cookery, diversity or anything else, particularly if doing so comes at the expense of the rights of others. So I intend to take a different tack, noting first that it is an important responsibility of the state to protect and defend the most vital interests of its members, and second that we have to ask “liability or asset for whom?” The first question has to do with a wider range of interests that citizens and others have that go beyond the merely financial, including interests in choosing for oneself the kind of life one wants to lead and where and with whom one wants to lead it, together with interests in not being subject to injustice and unfair discrimination; the second with who gets to be included within the class of people whose interests should be promoted and defended by the state. Both of these raise questions of principle, questions of what a legitimate state must and may do, and who it is answerable to. These are questions that have been pushed to the margins of recent policy debate in the UK, with, I believe, disastrous and immoral consequences. This is, in part, because politicians have been reckless about considerations of principle and guided overwhelmingly by immediate electoral concerns. As a consequence, we get policy objectives like the net migration target, which issue in damaging policies like restrictions on the right to form a family with the person one loves, in attempts to create a “hostile environment” for irregular migrants, and sundry other measures.

To take one example, the right to form a union with the person you love, to settle down, perhaps to have a family, is a pretty basic right. To their great credit, politicians of all parties now recognize that this right should not be arbitrarily restricted to heterosexuals. Similarly politicians have much to say about the importance of the family and family life to British society, they praise “hard-working families” and depict themselves as family-friendly. The right to family life is, of course, also recognized by the European Convention on Human Rights.

The right to family life is not absolute, of course, and we intervene in families when they are sites of violence and abuse and have systems to deal with that. But it is a pretty important right, corresponding to a basic interest that people have. Not one to be lightly disregarded or overridden. Having rights of any kind are an asset to those who have them, a guarantee against interference.

Now we live in an increasingly globalized world. People travel, people meet other people, people fall in love. We had a good example of this in last week’s Masterchef, when we learned that Ping, the winner, had met her husband when he was on his gap year in Malaysia. When people fall in love and form a stable union with someone from another country, they usually wish to settle down and live together with that person. In the normal course of things, they will choose to live in the country of nationality of one or the other of them (Ping lives with her husband and baby daughter in Bath). Recently, in the case of couples with a non-EU partner, government has severely restricted their ability to live together in the UK. Extending earlier requirements, the British government now requires the British partner to have a verifiable income of £18,600 pa, with the sum rising considerably if there are children involved. The prospects of the foreign partner don’t come into it, and if the British partner is, say self-employed, there are more onerous requirements still: income must not fall below £1550 in any single month over the year. If it does, the clock starts ticking again.

As the BritCits campaigning group has demonstrated time and time again, this frequently leads to catastrophic and horrible consequences for couples and their families. Children are often separated from a parent; adults are often confronted with tragic choices between caring for elderly parents in one country and living with husband or wife in another. In some cases, couples will resolve the problem by choosing to live together in the overseas country, and often a highly skilled and educated British citizen is lost to this country forever (and perhaps forever embittered against the country of their birth). Notice that if the other country were to introduce similar rules to the UK, there might be no country where the couple could legally live together.

Ministers have defended these measures by saying that people should not be allowed to import a foreign spouse “at the taxpaxer’s expense” and that in setting the income threshold they were only acting on the advice of the independent Migration Advisory Committee. This latter point is disingenuous. The MAC answered the question that it was asked by the government, a deliberately narrow question, and made a point of observing that there might be other relevant considerations that it was not asked about. Ministers have justified £18,600 as being the level necessary so that the couple will not be taking more in benefits than they pay in taxes, and also as being the level necessary for playing a full part in society. Since incoming spouses are, initially at least, denied “recourse to public funds” the taxpayer rationale looks shaky on its own terms. That the government believes that a level of income higher than either the minimum wage or the “Living Wage” is necessary to function in society is problematic for other obvious reasons.

My objection, however, is more basic. If a right is a basic right of citizenship, the denial of which is catastrophic for a person’s prospects of living a decent human life, it should not be conditional on being a net contributor to the tax system (as if that were the only valid measure of contribution to society). Think of other rights: the right to vote, the right to a fair trial, the right to emergency medical treatment, the right not to be subject to racial discrimination in employment or housing, the right to be protected from serious crime by the police. None of these rights is conditional on being a net taxpayer and most people think that it would be monstrously unjust to make them so. That wasn’t always the case, of course. The right to vote used to be subject to a property qualification, but most people now agree that both rich and poor citizens have the right to participate in elections. If a citizen wishes to live with the person they love in their own country, however, that is now subject to a property qualification. Is this because this right is of lesser importance? It is hard to think so. One imagines that many people would gladly surrender the right to vote for a Westminster MP in return for the right to live with their spouse and see their children again. One might add that there is a peculiar cynicism in a political class that has failed people by arranging the economy so that it is marked by inequality and disadvantage then further penalising those denied opportunities by limiting their basic rights.

Why then, has the government chosen to restrict the rights and opportunities of it citizens in this way? One conjecture is that this is because of its obsession with the net migration target, with an abstract number. Much migration is hard to control because of things like treaty obligations, so the government, wanting to be seen to be doing something about a supposed “problem” and reckless of the basic rights of its citizens, squeezes where it can, and family migration is one place that it can restrict the flow.

Some people might think, in reply to what I’ve just said, that the answer, then, is obvious. If citizens’ basic rights are being restricted because the government cannot control other migration flows then we should change things so as to get those flows under control. Perhaps we should leave the EU or renegotiate its basic principles on freedom of movement? Now it is true that the right to live and work in another country is less basic than the right to live with your spouse and have children. But we have to recognize the fact that it is an important right nonetheless and proposals to restrict intra-EU migration are proposal to deny British citizens an important asset that they currently enjoy. My own father-in-law—made unemployed in the early years of the Thatcher government—ended up taking Mr Tebbit’s advice. He got on his metaphorical bike, left Liverpool, and ended up working in a factory in West Germany, thereby enabled to send money home to support his family. And of course, to this day, many British people resettle elsewhere in Europe either to work or to retire. Freedom of movement is an asset to these people, and governments should be wary about stripping their citizens of rights and opportunities they now have.

I now want to turn to my second question, concerning who immigration is an asset or a liability for. Here’s a truism: the country is made up of individuals, who have interests that they wish to pursue. Ultimately, claims that are made about growth in the economy or the power and influence of the United Kingdom have to be cashed out in terms of the interests of the individuals who compose it. Those individuals have a number of resources at their disposal to pursue those interests: some of these are financial, clearly, but they include basic rights and liberties. Which individuals, then, have the right to have their interests promoted by the UK government? One answer will say that it is the citizens of the United Kingdom. This answer is too quick, for a number of reasons. First, we have to note that many people elsewhere have a right not to be harmed by us, to have their human rights respected, and to have any obligations we have undertaken towards them observed. The UK also has a duty, alongside other governments, to pursue ends that that are the common objective of the state system, and these include upholding international law, acting to mitigate climate change, and protecting those whom the state system has failed, such as refugees. Second, there are those who are not yet citizens who have a claim on us, chiefly members of future generations. Third, we cannot restrict ourselves to current members of the electorate, because we have to ask ourselves who has a moral claim to inclusion, to membership, to political rights. The fact that women were excluded from the franchise before the First World War does not entail that governments then were at liberty just to ignore their interests. Rather, they had a duty to do correct their exclusion.

In practice, the harmful exclusion of those who have a moral right to inclusion and membership has two dimensions, one social the other legal, and both of these are endangered by current policy and by the character of the immigration debate. The social aspect is that policies that tacitly take as normative a notion of British identity that is based on native white stereotypes tend to exclude and devalue people who don’t fit that template. Policies that start from the perceived anxieties and “legitimate concerns” of Mrs Gillian Duffy, tacitly devalue the anxieties and concerns of British citizens from other ethnic and cultural backgrounds. This privileging of some identities in the the political debate too easily translates into discrimination and unequal treatment on the ground. Increasing regulation of the labour market to prevent the employment of irregular migrants and the new provisions imposing penalties to landlords who let accommodation to such migrants will predictably have an effect on people with a legal entitlement to be here. Employers and landlords will err on the side of caution, and many British citizens will rightly be offended at being asked to prove their status whilst their white counterparts are waved through. This is a real cost imposed on our fellow citizens by these measures. The only way to implement these policies in a non-discriminatory way would be to impose some national identity scheme on everyone, a proposal that has been defeated in the past because of its onerous nature, its cost and its implications for civil liberties.

The second way in which the current debate has been massively harmful to the interests of people who have a right to membership in our society is that it has prevented us from having a principled conversation about granting rights to citizenship. In fact, things have gone alarmingly in the opposite direction, with the Home Office making statements about citizenship being a “privilege not a right” and new powers being taken to deprive naturalized citizens of their citizenship at the discretion of the Home Secretary, thereby creating another class of people whose citizenship rights are lesser and different to those of others. This is in addition to making the requirements to acquire citizenship for long-term residents, people who have grown up in this country, may even have been born in it, more onerous than ever. Nobody knows how many people there are in the country with irregular status, but it may be around 600,000 of whom perhaps 120,000 will be children, half of who will have been born in the UK. Some of these people have a moral claim to membership of our society on the basis of long residence, social connection, family ties etc. The prevailing discourse from the Home Office and politicians is that “illegal immigrants” need to be removed, but in practice everyone knows that this is not going to happen and that the blanket condemnation of all such people as lawbreakers deliberately ignores a complex social reality.

We need to address the status of persons in this category for two reasons. First, because the imperative of survival for people with irregular status, exposes them to exploitation, crime and abuse in all kinds of familiar ways and denies them effective remedies. This cannot be in the public interest. Second, it is a basic principle of democratic legitimacy that those subject to the law should have a say in making it. Both of these reasons support giving such people a path to regularize their status and, ultimately to acquire citizenship. The trouble is that the current anti-immigration rhetoric is such that a sensible conversation around the status of irregular migrants cannot even be had.

The topic of this debate is “immigration: liability or asset?” My contention has been that this debate has been too narrowly framed in economic terms. Rights and liberties are assets too and the rights and liberties of ordinary people—the people who actually compose the country—are being abridged and endangered by the current politics of immigration. Worse, when we think of the liabilities of that debate, they fall disproportionately and unjustly on a few people particularly on the poorest and most vulnerable. They fall on people with the ill luck to fall in love with a foreigner and earning too little to beat the new restrictive rules. They fall on citizens who don’t fit the stereotype of what a British person is supposed to look like and may face discrimination in employment or housing. And they fall on people with a claim to inclusion in our society, including children born here, whose voices cannot be heard over the clamour to restore “control over our borders”. The rights of these people are a valuable asset to us all, and they need protecting.

{ 33 comments }

1

Caleb 05.21.14 at 10:27 am

Very interesting post. I’d like to understand if you think the considerations you canvass always push in favour of less restrictive immigration policies.

For example, you write: ‘First, we have to note that many people elsewhere have a right not to be harmed by us, to have their human rights respected, and to have any obligations we have undertaken towards them observed. The UK also has a duty, alongside other governments, to pursue ends that that are the common objective of the state system, and these include upholding international law, acting to mitigate climate change, and protecting those whom the state system has failed, such as refugees.’ Clearly, respecting the principle of non-refoulement and indeed actively resettling refugees follows from these duties to protect and respect universal human rights, and to pursue ends that are common (and required) objectives of the state system.

But might it not also be the case that sometimes restricting labour immigration is justified by reference to these duties? I am thinking in particular here of the so-called brain drain, and especially the brain drain of medical workers. The human rights of people who live in developing countries to basic healthcare are undermined when 50% or more of medical graduates in the poorest countries emigrate to rich countries in the West. More generally, taking development to be a morally required objective to be jointly promoted by states in the international system, and assuming that brain drain often harms prospects for economic and political reform in developing countries, counter-brain drain policies (both on the part of sending states, and more relevantly here, receiving states) may be justified. Would you accept these implications of your theoretical framework?

2

Phil 05.21.14 at 10:29 am

I don’t disagree with any of this, but I think the second argument in particular stops short of where the migration debate gets difficult. Yes, “blanket condemnation” of irregular migrants as law-breakers is unrealistic as well as unhelpful, but what follows from that? Who do we think should get to be included in the population paying taxes to the UK government and obeying its laws? Fewer restrictions? A different set of restrictions? (UKIP types sometimes seem nostalgic for the good old days of New Commonwealth immigration, which is amusing if nothing else.) No restrictions at all?

Any set of immigration laws is liable to cause injustice – some family is going to be divided, some asset to the community or hard-working student is going to be deported or detained. Getting the law to be applied humanely and generously, shifting the terms of the debate to be about who shouldn’t be excluded rather than who should, would be a massive achievement, but it would still leave the anti-immigration side of the debate their key argument: OK, what would you do? Let everyone in?

3

Matt 05.21.14 at 10:47 am

I’m running off to work now so won’t have a chance to comment on the substance here for a little bit, but wanted to note this nicely done review of Carens book, for those who are interested and want to get a taste:

http://ndpr.nd.edu/news/47933-the-ethics-of-immigration/

4

Nick 05.21.14 at 10:49 am

Caleb, my current understanding is that brain drain is a legitimate concern but more in theory than in practice. When more doctors have the opportunity to work in developed nations, more people start training as doctors. And the benefits accrue back to developing nations as remittances, presumably some of which gets spent on higher education. So there may well be temporary gaps in provision but generally migration can be supportive of development.

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Chris Bertram 05.21.14 at 11:48 am

Just to say, that this wasn’t supposed to give a full account of all this issues, but was a 15-20 minute talk on a panel with other people putting other arguments. Matt: I know that you think states have a legitimate interest in excluding people who would be a cost (we’ve argued about this before). Caleb, Carens addresses the brain-drain issue at 183-5 of his book, and maybe this will come up in the symposium next week. Phil, I wasn’t aiming here to give a complete answer but to point out that many of the policies are at variance with values that democratic politicians and citizens profess to accept, at least on high days and holidays.

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rwschnetler 05.21.14 at 11:54 am

One reason why immigration is on the front burner in the UK, is that net immigration is positive for awhile now (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2514866/Now-net-migration-rise-Its-182-000-2-years-falls-workers-flee-eurozone.html). People starts to notice, especially lower income workers who are competing for the same jobs as many immigrants.

7

Caleb 05.21.14 at 2:02 pm

Nick, of course we must distinguish between the normative question of whether, if brain drain harms the provision of basic healthcare in poorer sending states, this would justify restrictions and the empirical question of whether brain drain in fact harms healthcare provision.

Nevertheless, I don’t think the evidence supports the rosy picture you paint. Especially in the poorest states, and in island states where the absolute population is low so even small absolute emigrant numbers create disproportionately serious impacts, medical brain drain is a serious problem. Even if the prospect of earning higher wages as a doctor in Manchester may motivate more people to train as doctors in Malawi, when the proportion of medical graduates that emigrate is as high as 50% or more, adequate healthcare provision is threatened. Already, many of the poorest countries in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa have the lowest doctor/nurse-to-patient ratios in the world; surely the large-scale migration of medical workers from these countries to those which already have the most favourable ratios cannot be helping development.

8

primedprimate 05.21.14 at 2:47 pm

Caleb, I think Nick is right on the empirical question.

Beine, Docquier, and Rapoport – Journal of Development Economics, 2001:

And in a more recent update with more data, the same authors (Economic Journal, 2008) find:

As regards the normative question, Clemens makes an interesting analogy in his famous Journal of Economic Perspectives 2011 article – I strongly recommend reading the entire article, but let me cite just a few selected sentences on brain drain:

9

primedprimate 05.21.14 at 3:03 pm

Block quote epic fail. Let me try again – admins, please delete the previous comment, if possible.

Caleb, I think Nick is right on the empirical question.

Beine, Docquier, and Rapoport – Journal of Development Economics, 2001:

We distinguish two growth effects: an ex ante brain effect migration prospects foster investments in education because of higher returns abroad., and an ex post drain effect because of actual migration flows.. The case for a beneficial brain drain BBD emerges when the first effect dominates, i.e., when the average level of human capital is higher in the economy opened to migrations than in the closed economy. We derive the theoretical conditions required for such a possibility to be observed. Using cross-section data for 37 developing countries, we find that the possibility of a BBD could be more than a theoretical curiosity.

In follow up research (Economic Journal 2008), the same authors find:

Using new data on emigration rates by education level, we examine the impact of brain drain migration on human capital formation in developing countries. We find evidence of a positive effect of skilled migration prospects on gross human capital formation in a cross-section of 127 countries.

I would strongly suggest reading Michael Clemens’ famous 2011 Journal of Economic Perspectives since it is interesting throughout. With regard to the normative question, here are a few selected sentences from that article on brain drain:

Externalities like these are often assumed to be so pervasive that the literature refers to skilled migration with a pejorative catchphrase—“brain
drain”—embodying the assumption. (To see why economists should avoid this
term, picture reading a journal article on female labor force participation that
calls it the “family abandonment rate.”)

Further complications arise from the implicit assumption that non-emigrants hold property rights in the positive externalities of skilled migrants. If nonemigrants own these rights, do they also own any negative externalities the emigrants would have provided by staying—like contributions to urban congestion or to pollution? And who decides whose positive externalities are owned by whom?Presumably, an American doctor’s decision not to provide care in Haiti causes the same loss of positive externality to Haitians as a Haitian doctor’s decision to leave Haiti, but few would consider taxing the American doctor’s decision.

10

Ronan(rf) 05.21.14 at 3:04 pm

Caleb – my impression is that as a generality brain drain doesnt really matter that much, but in specific cases it does

http://econweb.umd.edu/~Lafortune/puc-reading/Beine_Docquier_Rapoport_2008.pdf

which is pretty much what youre saying at 7 ? (So how would you correct the specific cases where it’s a problem, without undermining the general benefits of emigration)

11

primedprimate 05.21.14 at 3:12 pm

Or in other words, Caleb, one way to solve the problem in Malawi would be to force doctors from the developed world to migrate there (since we’re assuming that the right to choice of location does not rest with high-skilled individuals themselves.)

12

Ronan(rf) 05.21.14 at 3:18 pm

Im sorry primedprimate, I linked to the same article you mentioned, so my point was largely redundant (the link doesnt work anyway, so..

13

L2P 05.21.14 at 3:47 pm

Which individuals, then, have the right to have their interests promoted by your family? One answer will say that it is the members of that family. This answer is too quick, for a number of reasons. First, we have to note that many people elsewhere have a right not to be harmed by us, to have their human rights respected, and to have any obligations we have undertaken towards them observed. Your family also has a duty, alongside other famlies, to pursue ends that that are the common objective of society, and these include upholding the laws, acting to mitigate climate change, and protecting those whom the state system has failed, such as refugees. Second, there are those who are not yet members of your family who have a claim on your family, chiefly members of future generations. Third, we cannot restrict ourselves to current members of your family, because we have to ask ourselves who has a moral claim to inclusion, to membership, to political rights. The fact that women were excluded from the significant family decisions before the First World War does not entail that families then were at liberty just to ignore their interests. Rather, they had a duty to correct their exclusion.

Nice true, but your argument will never convince any significant number of First World citizens unless you can either make it work here, or explain why it doesn’t matter.

14

Sonel (BritCits) 05.21.14 at 4:04 pm

The MAC point is a good one and one which we cannot shout out about enough. It’s also of concern that the govt uses the so-call independent MAC’s recommendation when MAC has made clear that their recommendation of £18600 is a) the level of income which a couple needs to not be reliant on the state. Note, COUPLE, not one person and not just the British citizen/resident, and b) of this amount, around £6k is to reflect accommodation costs….so where a couple don’t have these, the income level, even with reference to MACs recommendation used by the govt, should be lowered, be this because the couple lives mortgage free, or rent fee with friends/family/accommodation included as part of their employment.

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Caleb 05.21.14 at 4:16 pm

My claim that brain drain is harmful was specific to medical brain drain from the poorest countries. However, there is evidence that brain drain in general (i.e. emigration of skilled workers) harms development in the poorest countries. I accept that brain drain can be helpful to middle-income countries, partly because of the incentive it creates for people in such countries to upgrade their skills, and more importantly because of return migration. But (1) in the case of medical brain drain, and in the case of the poorest countries, the loss from brain drain is not outweighed by the incentive effect; (2) there is very little return migration to the poorest countries.

See:

http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1747-7093.2006.00028.x/abstract

and

http://www.oxfordhandbooks.com/view/10.1093/oxfordhb/9780195337228.001.0001/oxfordhb-9780195337228-e-6

16

Caleb 05.21.14 at 4:20 pm

As for the normative argument, I do not in principle object to conscripting skilled workers from developed countries to work temporarily in the least developed countries. However, it seems to me that counter-brain drain policies that rely on restricting certain forms of skilled immigration are, to say the least, more likely to be implemented.

17

Matt 05.21.14 at 5:36 pm

It’s a nicely done piece, Chris, and I’m at least largely in agreement. (The areas of disagreement, while of course of interest to me, are fairly trivial compared to the areas of agreement, from a practical perspective.)

I thought this was a point worth emphasizing:
Since incoming spouses are, initially at least, denied “recourse to public funds” the taxpayer rationale looks shaky on its own terms.

That’s an important point because is helps show that, even if one thinks that considerations of reciprocity among current members might justify some restrictions on family based immigration, these considerations can be met in a number of ways, and there’s a moral obligation on states to try to meet them in the least restrictive ways possible. (I’ve argued that such considerations are sometimes legitimate, but I do think they are limited, at best, and I think their validity will turn on lots of different considerations.)

Caleb- something I wonder (really- I’m not sure on this, so it’s not a rhetorical question on my part) is, even assuming that the brain drain case you mention is a real worry, how would the restrictions be set up? Do you have in mind just eliminating special preferences for, say, health care workers? (There are several different ones in US immigration law.) It would seem implausible and problematic to me to say that, say, doctors are not eligible for skilled immigrant visas, or other visas, and bans of healthcare workers from particular countries would seem even more problematic. For these reasons, as well as others, I suspect that this issue is best addressed in ways other than migration restrictions, though of course it’s hard to know with certainty.

18

David 05.21.14 at 5:48 pm

As with any political issue, the question has to be “who benefits”? I think there’s a tendency to see this through a middle-class, skilled worker prism. On the one hand, there’s the benefit in having a multi-cultural set of friends and colleagues, and even marrying someone from another culture (who would normally acquire permanent resident status anyway so the problem goes away). On the other hand, it’s attractive to import doctors etc from countries where other taxpayers have already funded their training and save money thereby. But most immigration, in numerical terms, is not like this today. It’s more likely to be desperate people, without skills, often owing money to traffickers, and whose only asset is a willingness to work for starvation wages and endure conditions of work even worse than those currently on offer to workers born in this country or officially naturalized. For the Right, this has always seemed to me an excellent bargain: on the one hand, a frightened, vulnerable and insecure workforce, on the other a good populist issue to garner votes from bigots and racists. For the rest of us I’m not so sure where the benefit is supposed to be.

19

Caleb 05.21.14 at 8:05 pm

Matt: One policy would simply be to end active recruitment of medical workers from states deemed to be most at risk of severely harmful brain drain (the list of such states could be sourced from an international organization, most obviously the WHO). Ending any special immigration preferences for medical workers, as you suggest, is another possibility. Probably my main policy suggestion would be to work with sending state governments to implement and enforce minimum service requirements for graduates from their medical schools: if the minimum length of service is long enough, and enforcement is effective, this could drastically reduce the migration of medical workers from the relevant sending states.

20

Matt 05.21.14 at 9:02 pm

Thanks, Caleb. I have some sympathy with service requirements for doctors and others who train at government expense, though I worry that they might well reduce applicants to a significant degree. At least, I don’t think we can assume they would not. I think we can assume that they would be unpopular. The bigger moral, I think, is that problems like these ones are often very complicated, simple solutions are unlikely to be fully satisfactory, and might have to be regularly re-adjusted.

21

Randy McDonald 05.22.14 at 1:54 am

“Probably my main policy suggestion would be to work with sending state governments to implement and enforce minimum service requirements for graduates from their medical schools: if the minimum length of service is long enough, and enforcement is effective, this could drastically reduce the migration of medical workers from the relevant sending states.”

Is Cuba really a good model?

22

david 05.22.14 at 6:19 am

As I have no doubt Holbo or Waring can testify, Singapore also ties its scholars down with service requirements.

Many successful graduates still leave thereafter, though.

23

Chris Bertram 05.22.14 at 8:21 am

“David”: “But most immigration, in numerical terms, is not like this today. It’s more likely to be desperate people, without skills, often owing money to traffickers, and whose only asset is a willingness to work for starvation wages and endure conditions of work even worse than those currently on offer to workers born in this country or officially naturalized.”

Most immigration to the UK is not actually as you describe, as even the tiniest bit of research would have demonstrated.

“even marrying someone from another culture (who would normally acquire permanent resident status anyway so the problem goes away)”

Since the entire point of half of my talk was about the difficulties of foreign spouses in the UK obtaining permanent residence, you obviously commented without reading.

24

Abbe Faria 05.22.14 at 11:10 pm

CB mentions love six times. I don’t know if that’s just rhetorical, or meant as a factual statement. But there’s nothing in marriage about love, and the countries these visas are most often issued in relation to don’t have deep rooted traditions of love marriage.

Also, we get the same sort of thing with the focus on the poor and the low end of the labor market and Duffy’s concerns. But of course most immigrants are more educated that the average Brit, and immigration policy has deliberately been used to turn London into a global financial capital. This has wrecked huge damage on the UK and world economy.

It pretty easy to twitter on about love and succour to huddled masses and get a good response, but immigration policy also results in other forms of marriages and movement of people like hedge fund managers and bankers. I think you’d have had a tougher time if you ran with those ex

25

Abbe Faria 05.22.14 at 11:11 pm

examples.

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Matt 05.22.14 at 11:53 pm

there’s nothing in marriage about love, and the countries these visas are most often issued in relation to don’t have deep rooted traditions of love marriage.

I don’t know about the UK, but can say two things about this sort of claim in relation to the US: 1) This claim would certainly not be true of the US. More importantly, 2) there is no reason to think that marriages by immigrants need to meet standards different from those that would make a marriage a “bona fide good-faith marriage” in the country of immigration. If it’s legally okay for people in the host country to get married for reasons other than (romantic) love (at the time of marriage), then it should be so for immigrants, too. I assume that’s the case in the UK, as it is in most countries.

most immigrants are more educated that the average Brit
Is this so? I guess it could be, but I’d be interested to see statistics. It’s not so for the US. (This is one reason why the US’s relatively expansive family-based immigration system is opposed by many who have a more “economic” approach to immigration, though it’s not actually clear that changing this would lead to better economic outcomes, for several reasons.)

27

Abbe Faria 05.23.14 at 12:37 am

Wouldn’t disagree with you. It’s just down to the UK being a financial center and surrounded by rich countries, and the US being next to Mexico and needing manual labor.

cep.lse.ac.uk/pubs/download/pa014.pdf has age of finishing education at:

UK born. 16 or under 50.2%, 17-20 29.8%, 21 or older 20.07%.
All immigrants. 16 or under 24.1% , 17-20 34.8%, 21 or older 41.1.%.
Recent immigrants. 16 or under 10.4%, 17-20 36.0%, 21 or older 53.6%.

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Philip 05.23.14 at 9:29 am

Another restriction on spouses is the English language requirement, they initially need a beginner level qualification to obtain a spouse visa. This adds another bureaucratic and financial burden onto applicants and unfairly affects people on low income or with a lower level of education. To then apply for settlement or British Citizenship an intermediate (B1 on the European framework) speaking and listening qualification is required as wellas passing the Life in the UK Test. However it can be very difficult to find a place on an ESOL course, see here. Also the existing ESOL qualifications should be replaced by September but no one is sure if the new qualifications will be ready in time, what the funding rate will be, or if interim funding for the existing qualifications will be released again, making planning for new courses almost impossible.

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David 05.23.14 at 9:05 pm

@23
Ah, I thought this might happen once we got out of the middle-class English comfort zone.
There’s a substantial list of people who would disagree with you, starting with the International Organisation on Migration and including many academics who work on migratory flows around the world.
I can’t speak for the UK, since I don’t live there, but the French media, for example, have given a lot of coverage to reports of at least 2000 deaths last year among illegal immigrants trying to cross the Mediterranean by boat. I doubt if they all intended to become doctors in the UK.
Immigration and migratory flows are complicated subjects. Best left to experts …

30

James Conran 05.23.14 at 10:35 pm

This looks to be a sad example of UK immigration law in action:

http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-northern-ireland-27542165

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Chris E 05.23.14 at 11:32 pm

“There’s a substantial list of people who would disagree with you, starting with the International Organisation on Migration and including many academics who work on migratory flows around the world”

There is no necessary contradiction there. Most migration in the world is between mainly poor countries, with generally low labour standards (though you are using fairly emotive language there – not every such immigrant lives in fear).

OTOH in the UK legal migration outnumbers illegal migration, so the sorts of situation you are describing are the minority.

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Chris Bertram 05.24.14 at 11:48 am

The topic of my talk was UK migration policy, David, so it was reasonable to suppose that your comment was addressing that. I hadn’t realised that you took our comments facility to give you carte blanche to sound off about whatever and then finish with a patronising “best left to experts”. Please don’t come back.

33

djw 05.25.14 at 9:02 pm

Fantastic post, Chris. Looking forward to the Carens symposium.

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