The impact of Immigration
Immigration has always existed because some nations have better conditions for their inhabitants than others, particularly in such aspects like labor, wages, health, education, public services and social stability or peace, thus many people leave their countries and move to other in order to live a better life for themselves and their children.
According to Rachel M. Friedberg and Jennifer Hunt´s book, “The Impact of Immigrants in Host Country Wages, Employment and Growth”, in the last three decades, the percentage of immigrant population in some of the nations that have received large numbers of immigrants is as follows:
Immigrants as percentage of population:
Country: 1981: 1991:
Australia 20.6 22.7
Belgium 9.0 9.2
Canada 16.1 15.6
West Germany 7.5 8.2
Luxembourg 26.1 28.4
Netherlands 3.8 4.8
Sweden 5.0 5.7
Switzerland 14.3 17.1
United Kingdom 2.8 3.1
United States 6.2 7.9
In the case of the United States, in 2004 the total population was 288.3 million inhabitants, and the number of foreign – born was 34.2 million, including 10.3 million of unauthorized immigrants. In the particular case of the state of California, the total population was 36.6 million inhabitants, 9.5 million were foreign – born and 2.4 million were unauthorized immigrants. Immigration accounts for approximately 40% of annual population growth in the US alone. Immigration, both legal and unauthorized, averaged 218 000 per year for the period 1995 – 2004 and immigration from foreign countries accounted for approximately 40% of the United States population growth during that period. According to the United States Census Bureau, the total population of the USA is estimated to be 310 555 647 inhabitants as of today, and one international immigrant arrives every 37 seconds. Recent estimates from the Pew Hispanic Center indicate that the total number of unauthorized immigrants coming to the US in the past few years is 700 000 to 750 000 each year and that the net unauthorized immigrants averaged close to 500 000 per year during that period. These figures clearly show that immigration is an important source of population growth in most countries.
The main reasons for the immigrants to move to another country are twofold: one, in their own countries, poverty, political instability and scarcity of opportunities, and two, in the country where they go, more stable political situation, better basic services, like health and social security, education and better jobs and wages.
It is easy to understand that those people decide to leave all they have in their homeland and look for new opportunities in another country just because they would not prosper if they keep on struggling under very unfavorable conditions. For example, there was a dramatic situation in Nicaragua in the second half of the 1970s as a consequence of the civil war fought by the “contras” against the government. As a result, the economy of that nation collapsed, most of the industries were closed and the living conditions deteriorated to such a degree that Nicaragua became one of the poorest countries in Latin America. So many Nicaraguans were forced to abandon their country and move to Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala, the USA or Costa Rica.
As Mr. Oswald Céspedez states in his work “Migración en Costa Rica”, between 1974 and 2000, 8.5% of the Costa Rican population was formed by immigrants and two thirds of them were Nicaraguans. He also quotes that in 2007 there were 81 173 homes in Costa Rica in which the heads were Nicaraguans and that there were 267 409 Nicaraguan people working in our country.
The impact of that migration is again twofold. In the one hand, we find a very important insertion in the Costa Rican labor force, because those immigrants fill the gap produced by Costa Ricans who look for better jobs and wages, so they leave behind many low – wage jobs that were taken over by these immigrants from Nicaragua. This has been of great help because they took over what we considered not attractive for ourselves when we decided to look for better positions that allow us to earn more.
In the other hand, and on a personal basis, I say that many of those immigrants do not find the optimum conditions to make a good living, so they go in the bad direction since they decide not to work but to steal, to rob and to traffic drugs instead.
This is why Costa Ricans lost the peaceful cities we once had. I can easily recall those years before 1975, when we could walk along the streets at any time, even any Sunday evening at ten p.m. without worrying about the possibility of being attacked or murdered by a foreigner having the characteristic accent of a Nicaraguan. Now it is so common that people get killed just for carrying a mobile phone, an I-pod or a laptop, or perhaps that two robbers stab a bus driver and assault the passengers, that a cab driver is found dead and robbed.
Even though some people do not accept these facts and argue that Nicaraguans are not the only ones to blame, I have witnessed the so negative change in the status and social deterioration that started precisely about the time when massive waves of refugees came from Nicaragua. Life here was a lot safer than it is now; the circumstances changed very rapidly and we lost security. This is the direct result of the arrival of antisocial guys, especially from Nicaragua, and years later from Colombia and the Dominican Republic. They have “taught” many young Costa Ricans how to obtain money the easy way. They started up gangs that perpetrate those inhuman crimes and the training takes place both at La Reforma Penitentiary Center and on the streets in the marginal sectors of San Jose, Alajuela, Heredia, Guapiles, and Limon, such as Leon XIII, Rincon Grande, “Infiernillo”, “Cuadros”, and many more that are the places where those gangs fight aggressively for the dominance of the territory. Costa Rica had never had such killing fields.
Another social problem derived from this migration of Nicaraguans is that many young girls who come here do not have good education and become adolescent mothers thus increasing the already large number of immigrants who suffer the bad situation of poverty that we can easily notice in many towns and city suburbs throughout Costa Rica. It is estimated that almost 50% of all the births in our country are of the children of those girls.
In brief, we can say that immigration has two impacts upon our society. One is positive: many good professional immigrants have contributed to our labor force and others have taken over many low – category jobs that Costa Ricans abandoned and that must be done. The other one is terribly negative: the increase of social deterioration and its consequences such as stealing, robbery, lack of social security, poverty, and so forth.
“The Impact of Immigrants in Host Country Wages, Employment and Growth”, Rachel M. Friedberg and Jennifer Hunt, October 23, 2010.
2- http://www.census.gov/population/www/popclockus.html US POPClock Projection, US Census Bureau, October 24, 2010.
3- http://www.flacso.or.cr/fileadmin/documentos/FLACSO/Carlos_Castro.pdf “Migración Nicaragüense en Costa Rica, población, empleo y necesidades básicas insatisfechas”, Carlos Castro, Facultad Latinoamericana de Ciencias Sociales. October 23, 2010.
4- http://www.eclac.org/publicaciones/xml/0/34570/lcl2929.P.pdf “Inmigración en Costa Rica: características sociales y laborales, integración y políticas públicas” Abelardo Morales, Centro Latinoamericano y Caribeño de Demografía (CELADE) – División de Población de la CEPAL, October 23, 2010.
5- http://www.labor.ca.gov/panel/pdf/Impact of Immigration.pdf “The Impact of Immigration on the California Economy, Origin of Immigrants in California” Center for Continuing Study of the California Economy. October 23, 2010.