Desperate refugees drown in the Mediterranean. Undocumented migrants leap into lorries at Calais. Europeans fleeing economic disaster book one-way tickets to London. Politicians from all sides are agreed: we have an immigration “problem”. And the solution seems clear: if we want to fight inequality at home, we need to stop migrants arriving from abroad.
But what if this assumption is wrong? What if the drive to restrict migration isn’t reducing poverty at all, but instead helping to create a global migration system that is actually exacerbating local inequality?
In The Huddled Masses: Immigration and Inequality, migration researcher Katy Long shows why we need to urgently rethink the relationship between immigration and inequality, and avoid pursuing current policies that pit poor immigrants against poor workers – at the expense of both groups.
Drawing on cutting-edge research, Long offers an incisive analysis of our migration system, showing how efforts to restrict immigration are widening the gap between wealthy corporation and ordinary citizens, at terrible human cost. She exposes how companies like G4S and Serco profit from a billion-dollar migration industry while locking their own workers into a low-wage, low-skill economy and how stringent minimum income requirements mean half of Britons no longer have the right to live with a foreign spouse in the UK.
The Huddled Masses also assesses the real contribution that migrants make to the economy, exploding the myth that migrants “take our jobs”. It makes clear that immigration plays a critical role – both in terms of human capital and tax revenue – in sustaining the social institutions that offer citizens real protection against widening inequality.
The Huddled Masses outlines a number of innovative, progressive migration policies – from expanding refugee resettlement to encouraging temporary agricultural workers schemes – that could change the way we think about migration. For as Long concludes, the migration debate is usually presented as a national problem: but we need to recognize migration is a class issue too. Because in the end, this isn’t just about the immigrants: it’s about us too.
Katy Long is a lecturer at Edinburgh University and a research associate at the Refugee Studies Centre, University of Oxford. As a child, the experience of immigrating to Canada (and then later returning to the UK) left her with a deep interest in national identities, international borders and how people “belong” to places – as well as two passports.
She later became professionally interested in migration whilst living in post-conflict Guatemala in 2006, completing her doctorate on the topic three years later. This research formed the basis for her first book, The Point...
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