Needed But Not Wanted

New waves of immigrants are rarely, if ever, popular, but they are often needed for jobs that natives no longer want. If Europe – and Japan, for that matter – want to address effectively their problems with cultural integration of immigrants, they should start by making economic migration legitimate.

NEW YORK – Baruch Spinoza, the seventeenth-century Dutch philosopher, Benjamin Disraeli, the nineteenth-century British prime minister, and Nicolas Sarkozy, the twenty-first century French president, have one thing in common: all were sons of immigrants. People have migrated to other countries for thousands of years – to escape, prosper, be free, or just to start again. Not a few enriched their adopted homelands by achieving great things, or producing children who did.

New waves of immigrants are rarely, if ever, popular. But they are often needed. Many people have migrated to Western European countries from North Africa and Turkey during the last half-century, not because of Western generosity, but because they were required for jobs that natives no longer wanted. They were treated as temporary workers, however, not as immigrants.

Once the job was done, it was assumed that the migrants would go home. When it became clear that most had elected to stay, and were joined by extended families, many were grudgingly allowed to become citizens of European states, without necessarily being treated as such.

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