The Psychology of Immigration

Immigration is one of the main problems which Europe is facing nowadays. Therefore I invite you to read this ‘dialogue’ in form of article by Marty Nemko, Ph.D.

“I am a child of Holocaust survivors and am well aware that Franklin Delano Roosevelt, supposed champion of the oppressed, refused to take in Jews threatened by the Nazi Holocaust. (link is external)

So part of me is glad that countries such as Germany and the United States are taking in large numbers of Syrians and others escaping misery.

But the issue may not be quite so simple. Because the issue is psychologically powerful for many people and made even more emotional by the wrenching images in the media, I decided to make today’s post an internal debate on the subject.

MN: When people are suffering in Syria, how can richer countries not provide safe haven?!

ALTER-EGO: People are suffering all over the world: in Africa, South America, much of Asia. A billion people live on $1.25 or less a day. Closer to home, consider that the millions of suffering Mexicans and other Latinos who came here for a better life still don’t have it easy, and there are millions more just waiting for the right time to come. While we may celebrate diversity, no one can say it has been easy to accommodate the millions of immigrants’ needs regarding language, employment, health care, education, and criminal justice. On average, the Middle Eastern immigrants also are low-income, have high health care needs, and have limited employment skills, not to mention language and cultural issues: Syrians, for example, speak varying forms of Arabic (link is external)and proudly live a culture that is very different from those of the West.

MN: Please remember that countless such people’s lives are unimaginably worse than even poor Americans’. Shouldn’t we make things more equal, even if we in rich countries must live with less?

ALTER-EGO:  Immigration from poorer to richer countries will continue until the challenges of migrating outweigh the new country’s benefits. That makes it likely that all countries will eventually equalize. Because there are so many poor, underskilled people, most countries will become predominantly poor and struggling just to provide basic food, shelter, water, transportation, and health care. Countries like the United States, which can afford to invest in medical research, to have a rich arts culture, do environmental research, etc., may not afford to do such things.

MN: All that medical research hasn’t extended lifespan that much, and the arts will emerge as they always have: from the people, with little money required. Even in the United States so much creative effort—whether in theatre, painting, or even computers—as with Wikipedia and Firefox—comes mainly from volunteer efforts.

ALTER EGO: To pay for the needs of immigrants, taxes on the middle class, not just the wealthy, will have to be raised significantly. Already, people making over $50,000 a year pay 97 percent of the federal income tax raised. (link is external)That will create more disincentive to work, let alone to invest in research and development.

MN: You’re being too pessimistic. Just as previous waves of immigrants became net contributors to society, it will happen again here and in Europe.

ALTER EGO: Is there not a difference between the earlier waves of immigrants, who were mostly modern Europeans? Many Middle Easterners live in very unmodern ways— for example, how fundamentalist Muslims regard women? Can we really insist the world will be net better as the result of mass migration from the Middle East?

MN: No one’s calling for open borders. Countries will establish limits. Remember, the Syrian war is an emergency.

ALTER EGO: It’s a big world. There’s always some emergency.

MN: Who knows? Maybe all the migration will lead to a one-world government, where things will be more equal and—speaking optimistically-—in which there will be less war and more cooperation.

ALTER EGO: You are an optimistic.

MN: Well, as we look at human history, while progress has been in fits and starts, humankind has always figured out a way to keep improving things. Can I definitely predict it will continue? No, but history is on my side.”



Co-Founder/ Co- CEO

IRIANS- The Neuroscience Institute

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Michael says:

    No one’s calling for open borders? Plenty of people do. Haven’t you seen the signs they carry and the graffiti they spray?


  2. So, what is the solution? Not sharing our wealth and not giving them a chance to contribute to our society? And not feeling uncomfortable about the fact that we don’t? Altruism is an evolutionary benefit ( Or are we going to promote a new form of eugenics here?


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