How Other Countries Deal With Immigration

Why you should care

Because despite all the American upset over immigration, the poor and huddled masses are actually amassing in lots of places other than the U.S.

There are approximately 11.3 million illegal immigrants in the United States, and if there’s one thing Democrats and Republicans can agree on, it’s that this is a problem. Ask what should be done, of course, and say goodbye to consensus. Instead of trying the same thing and expecting different results (you know, insanity), let’s take a look at how countries around the world handle flows of people.

Mainstreaming

Though it’s made an exception for asylum seekers from Syria, Sweden typically grants access to only few immigrants — but the access comes with comprehensive rights and support. The strategy is called mainstreaming, and it has garnered Sweden the top ranking in the Migrant Policy Group’s comprehensive Migrant Integration Policy Index.

Swedes provide interpreters and Swedish-as-a-second-language courses to immigrant schoolchildren, and they give adults orientation programs at work and opportunities to learn Swedish. Special interest groups foster political participation among newcomers. Sweden’s strategy “is about overcoming barriers to the mainstream system, as opposed to creating alternate pathways,” says Madeleine Sumption, director of research at the Migration Policy Institute.

Meaning the Swedish government tries to ensure that those who come thrive. Studies that show countries that follow an integration pathway tend to reap benefits for everyone, like higher economic growth and levels of entrepreneurship and innovation.

Employer-Driven

Qatar is the polar opposite. Employers in the fast-growing Gulf country drive immigration policy, which means Qatar opens its doors to anyone and everyone who wants to work. Currently, 94 percent of the workforce is foreign-born, mostly from Asia and, particularly, Nepal. But they’re transient, too, with few of the rights and privileges of citizenship. Advocates have called the kingdom an “open jail” and working conditions there “modern-day slavery.Rights? Where’s the profit in those?

A dark alleyway where workers mostly from the sub-continent live  in Dubai.

Alleyway in Dubai where workers live, most of whom are from the subcontinent

Source Ghaith Abdul Ahad/Getty

Citizenship for Sale

Another strategy to ensure immigrants are productive immediately? Hand out or streamline citizenship in return for investment. Caribbean nations like St. Kitts and Nevis, and Dominica, offer a passport in return for a $250,000 ”donation” to government organizations like the Sugar Industry Diversification Foundation. Austria grants access to the EU for the bargain price of 2 million to 3 million euros. Australia, the U.K., Brazil and now Russia have similar citizenship-by-investment programs (CIPs). The United States’ CIP, the EB-5 visa for job creators — like the foreigners funding the nation’s sports arenas — has received less-than-satisfactory reviews.

One glaring issue with the less-restrictive programs: Investors may be interested in more than beachfront property: i.e., a safe haven to run “questionable” businesses. Even the United States’ program is vulnerable to fraud.

Powered by Data

“Canada is the gold standard,” argues Philip Martin, editor of Controlling Immigration: A Global Perspective. One in five Canadians is foreign-born, and Canadians rate multiculturalism as more important than the flag and hockey.

Sure, instead of the Rio Grande separating thousands of impoverished migrants from potential employment, Canada has the U.S. on its southern border. But it’s not just geographic advantage. For one, the Canadian government is better with data, says Sumption, of the Migration Policy Institute. It has developed a high-tech data collection and analysis system that facilitates both entry and integration. The U.S., by comparison, still uses mostly paper. Tracking immigrants post-entry lets policymakers make evaluations based more on outcomes than on ideology or politics, Sumption says.

The U.S. quota model also seems to cause unnecessary backlogs. “Essentially the quotas mean that the system is not very selective,” says Sumption. “It’s first come, first serve.” Canada, on the other hand, uses a point system that admits applicants based on their economic value: work experience, language proficiency and education, as well as family reunification and amnesty. Any takers?

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