Migration and language learning are so intrinsically linked that, especially at this time of year, language educators cannot help but think about the millions of people worldwide who have left their homes as a result of terrorism, war, gang and cartel violence, and political and religious persecution, as well as for economic survival. However, draconian measures are being taken worldwide to stifle migration despite the upsurge in conflict and the consequential displacement of millions of people.
In the UK, an emergency bill has been published to enable the government to ignore judgments from the European Court of Human Rights and parts of the UK’s own Human Rights Act in an effort to revive the government’s previously illegal plans to send asylum seekers to all the way to Rwanda. Under a new treaty, the UK is paying the African nation to house the migrants while their asylum applications are processed. Despite the inhumanity of deporting persecuted refugees to a country where they have no desire to go nor any affiliation, the UK government claims that it is a popular policy among the British people.
Popular support is also being used as the justification for legislation to tighten US asylum and parole laws in immigration proceedings. In the US Senate, a proposal tied to international aid packages would resume construction of the border wall, change rules to make large numbers of migrants ineligible for asylum, and revive the controversial “remain in Mexico” policy under which asylum seekers are kept outside the country while their immigration cases are heard.
At the state level, recently introduced Texas Senate Bill 4 would make it a misdemeanor for a person from a foreign nation to illegally enter or attempt to enter Texas at a location other than a lawful port of entry. But this is not a local Texas/Mexico issue—this year, over 82% of the one million immigrants encountered by Border Patrol on the Texas–Mexico border were not Mexican citizens, with many coming from Central and South America, Asia, or Eastern European countries.
Migration is a global issue that requires international cooperation to be managed effectively and humanely. We have to recognize that our international political and economic agendas have consequences that can result in the displacement of people to whom we owe the security of a place to call home.
We must also bust the popular myth that immigration, even in large numbers, has a negative impact on the receiving country or state. Immigrants have been scapegoated for all kinds of problems, from crime increases to unemployment, despite well-documented proof to the contrary. The reality is that most developed countries are facing labor shortages and need younger migrants to maintain their economic growth, which is why most countries accept migrants with the right qualifications or income.
We know from the laws of physics that everything in our world seeks equilibrium. No walls, be they concrete, electronic, or bureaucratic, are impervious to the flow of migrants, so even when refugees or asylum seekers are not the “right” migrants, we need to welcome, befriend, educate, assimilate, and learn from them.