There can be no doubt that the behavior of international capital is a major driver of immigration. Looking outward from the US alone, capital has long been at play in Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean, extracting resources and supporting dictatorial elites with little interest in economic development, forcing many of those deliberately impoverished masses to look north. Capital builds and destroys economies and rends people’s lives to the point of desperation, forcing the poor to pick up and move wherever they can to survive.
Ironically, there is great controversy over immigration in the developed world whose system did so much to create the prospective immigrant’s desperation. In the United States and Europe the right is obsessed with immigration as a threat to cultural identity; but immigration is also controversial in the center and even on the left, or what passes for the left, allegedly because it depresses working class wages and diminishes the prospects of native-born working people.
Yet if we look at the history of the United States, we see that mass immigration can co-exist with broad prosperity or even drive it. The US absorbed millions of immigrants from the 1880’s to the 1920’s and they helped to build the wealthiest, most powerful nation that ever existed. The US continues to to absorb large numbers of immigrants, documented and undocumented, and still the nation’s wealth expands, if mostly for the elite.
As anti-capitalists, we are naturally suspicious of the nativist, chauvinist notion that immigration is a threat to our security or prosperity individually or collectively, yet few of us would say that immigration without conditions or limits would produce a good result for immigrants or the native-born working class.
How do our various leftist perspectives on immigration address objective conditions in developed economies? Does the working class of one nation owe a welcome to all others who want to come? What is in the long term interest of workers at home and around the world?