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Immigration and the New Class Divide

SINGAPORE – The British shadow minister for Europe, Pat McFadden, recently warned members of his Labour Party that they should try to make the most of the global economy and not treat immigration like a disease. As he put it, “You can feed on people’s grievances or you can give people a chance. And I think our policies should be around giving people a chance.”

In a world increasingly dominated by grievances – against immigrants, bankers, Muslims, “liberal elites,” “Eurocrats,” cosmopolitans, or anything else that seems vaguely alien – such wise words are rare. Leaders worldwide should take note.

In the United States, Republicans – backed by their Tea Party activists – are threatening to close the government down just because President Barack Obama has offered undocumented immigrants who have lived and worked in the US for many years a chance to gain citizenship. The United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) wants to introduce a five-year ban on immigration for permanent settlement. Russia’s deputy prime minister, Dmitry Rogozin, once released a video promising to “clean the rubbish” – meaning migrant workers, mostly from former Soviet republics – “away from Moscow.”

Even the once famously tolerant Dutch and Danes are increasingly voting for parties that fulminate against the scourge of immigration. Always keen to assert the freedom to insult Muslims, the Dutch Freedom Party wants to ban all mosques. And the tiny and much-harassed opposition parties in Singapore – a country where almost everyone is descended from immigrants – are gaining traction by appealing to popular gripes about immigrants (mostly from India and China) who are supposedly taking jobs from “natives.”