Across the ages, the easiest instinct for any politician to follow whenever immigration rises to the fore in a national debate has almost always been fear.
In the case of the United States, as New York Times columnist Bret Stephens recently pointed out, this goes back to the country’s very origins. As they crafted the new nation’s earliest immigration rules, America’s leaders were driven by worries that people of other faiths would swamp the Protestants whom they saw as defining the country’s essence.
One need not look very hard around the world to find parallels to notions of fixed core identity based on race, color, and religion or to see political classes bar or sharply limit immigration—even when their countries badly need new workers to overcome labor shortages driven by population decline or aging. Japan is the most extreme example of this, but it is hardly alone. The contemporary political debate in the United States and much of Europe is driven to varying degrees by nativism, which is often little more than a polite way of saying racism.
Howard W. French, Foreign Policy, May 31, 2022
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