(November 2006) Nearly 3 million people migrate to other countries today. As long as high birth rates and poverty continue to place pressure on populations, migrants will see advantages to moving to countries with more resources and greater opportunities. With aging societies in Europe, and with Japan and other Asian countries seeing a reduction in their labor forces, the need for workers will conflict with many countries’ desires to remain relatively culturally homogeneous.

During a PRB Discuss Online, Carl Haub, PRB senior demographer, answered participants’ questions about international migration.

Thank you for sending all the interesting and compelling questions. We answered as many as we could in an hour’s worth of time.


Nov. 9, 2006 1 PM EST

Transcript of Questions and Answers

Dag – Atle Solberg: On Which date will USA pass 300 millon people
Carl Haub: The U.S. Census Bureau selected October 17 of this year as the day while freely admitting it was simply an estimate.

Harris Mylonas: First of all I would like to thank PRB for hosting this event. I would like to ask Carl Haub, What are the main factors that determine a state’s integration policies towards different immigrant groups? Does he predict an assimilationist or a multiculturalist future?
Carl Haub: Addressing the first question, a state’s policy regarding issues such as the requirement to learn the national language in order to become a citizen, along with the length of residence that might be required. Certainly, the future is likely to be more multicultural than it has been, particularly in the European case. Some immigrant characteristics, such as religion and religious holidays will almost certainly remain unchanged among immigrants. Other factors such as simple ethnicity, continued ties to the sending country, and language use at home will continue to differentiate immigrant groups. However, it is often observed the second generation readily assumes cultural and social norms from the country where they were born or had immigrated to when very young children.

Kenneth Davis: What role if any are the various churches playing in aiding migrants or the societies that send and receive them? Thank you.
Carl Haub: Churches play a very significant role in assisting immigrants to become established, particularly among refugees and asylees who arrive arrive with little or no support or prospects.

Karin Ringheim: As we see the effects of rapid population growth in the D.C. area, how does a person sympathetic to the desires of those seeking economic opportunities and protection of human rights balance this with concerns about our own environment and with protecting the quality of life in the U.S.?
Carl Haub: Certainly one way is to manage population growth better than we have. We are all familiar with the consequences of urban sprawl taking far more space than needed to house a growing population and with little or no thought to provide some type of viable transportation. In India, the Delhi government built a Metro system in a little more than 6 years and now plans to extend that to more built-up areas with a monorail. We could learn from India!

Ali A. Moqaddas: Dear Sir, If the fluidity of labor force is one dimension of globalization, why you raise such a question? if you have another idea please let me know, thanks
Carl Haub: If I understand you correctly, a more fluid labor force would lead to more frequent exchange of workers among countries by multinationals or filling positions where labor force is in short supply such as in the Gulf states. But I think what is now being called “pressure” is the coming shortage of labor force in the very low fertility countries of Europe, Japan, etc. where large numbers of immigrants are not at all “traditional.”

Soma Dey: Do you feel that the present trend of migration from developing towards developed world would really become a threat to the nations like USA? If yes, then why? If no, then why the Americans are so scared?
Carl Haub: In fact, I don’t really think Americans are as “scared” as media reports might suggest. Diversity has always been a part of U.S. population. But several things have happened in recent years. The number of immigrants has risen as a result of policies allowing immigration from all the world’s regions and immigrants are moving to areas which have not seen them before. I think Americans are opposed to illegal immigration in large part since citizens everywhere do wish to see immigration take place in some type of regularized framework.

Maureen Mayhew: Enticing immigrants countries that have less to countries that have more reminds me of the UAE. They have dealt with this by segregating the immigrants from nationals. Is this occurring informally in North America and to what degree? I am worried about segregation because I think it promotes conflict.
Carl Haub: Some immigrant groups do tend to segregate themselves based upon the need to be near social networks and language but that is often only at the very beginning. Once established, immigrants tend to disperse throughout society. Many other groups, particularly in the higher income classes locate directly in suburban areas and take on many of the customs and behavior of native Americans. So, I would say there is not much evidence of a threat to stability.

Mohammad Ziaul Ahsan: How will we stop the immigration? Is Socio-economic condition the main curse of immigration?? Thanking you
Carl Haub: As far as the U.S. is concerned I’m not sure what proportion of Americans would wish to stop immigration completely, if I get your meaning. But, certainly (and this would probably apply to many questions today, I’m sure) the socio-economic “pull” of higher income is undoubtedly the primary motivation to migrate.

Nemme N: I am proposing a very significant and yet not probably known is that population mobility could increase social intra-interaction and needs and accumulation of wealth. What do think about this assumptions/theory?
Carl Haub: Seems basically true to me. Migration nearly always has an economic motive and can definitely increase one society’s understanding of the other.

David Ojakaa: I thank PRB and the discussant Carl Haub for hosting this innovative session. What is in it for the countries of origin, the developing countries, and African nations in particular who are crying, “brain drain!”?
Carl Haub: The issue is, I think, why educated elites and professional leave their home country for another. It would seem fairly obvious that the home country either can’t or won’t move to retain them. Some countries do have provisions that require medical students to remain for a period of time and that seems like an important step in the right direction. Unfortunately, education is often seen as a way out, however.

Imoro Braimah: I think that the Question is one sided because it looks at only the receiving countries. Should the question not have used migration and not immigration? In the case of the latter I will like to ask if there is any consideration of the pressures on the sending countries to culturally assimilate the emigrants?
Carl Haub: Well, if I do understand your point, I don’t know of any such attempts. Although somewhat akin to it might be India’s attempts to maintain contacts with Non-resident Indians (NRI’s) in the UK, US, etc. and have them serve as a resource.

Ayman Zohry: Is Global Pressure for Immigration Increasing? The spontaneous answer to this question is YES! My question to you Mr. Haub is about the interrelationships between migration and global policies and international aid. Do you think that “global instability” makes for increased migration pressures?
Carl Haub: I would certainly think so as far as countries with significant numbers of refugees. At the same time, it seems clear that concern over instability has caused receiving countries to be much more cautious about who gets in and who doesn’t.

John Glad: Is it not time to put an end to the taboo on qualitative demographics in general and migration specifically? Which countries are winning the brain-drain musical-chairs game, and which are the losers? Note the difference between Canadian and US immigration policies. Canada stresses skills, while the US brings in people who “do jobs Americans don’t want to do.” See “Future Human Evolution: Eugenics in the Twenty-First Century” (Hermitage Publishers, 2006), also available free online at http://whatwemaybe.org for a discussion.
Carl Haub: Well as far as the US goes, both types of immigrants enter the country. First-time immigrants with no prior connection to the US come in under employment-based preferences, professionals, skilled workers, and the like. Their number is relative small, about 175,000 per year while family sponsored immigrants and less skilled workers are a much larger group. If one did drop some qualitative aspects, with what would it be replaced?

Thomas D. Boswell: Can you tell me how much it costs (on average) for the U.S. to return each illegal immigrant it apprehends. I am interested in the total cost, including the approximate cost of apprehension, incarceration, legal expenses, and transportation cost to return the undocumented person. Also, can you tell me how many people are apprehended per year and returned to their countries of origin? Thank you.
Carl Haub: I’m not sure anyone could answer the first question although Homeland security and the Justice Dept. might have some idea of their costs. About 1.2 million apprehensions a year are listed by Homeland Security and the majority return to their home country, the majority voluntarily.

Edem Paku: Is there any indicator that the number of people migrating from developing to developed world would be reducing? Giving a factor such as closing of the dev’tal gap between the two.
Carl Haub: Unfortunately, available data can’t really support statements about trends. However, the development gap certainly remains sufficiently wide so a reduction would not be expected. Working against an increase would be security concerns.

Joanna Vandenberg: The immigrants come mostly from overpopulated countries. Overpopulation is causing the pressure. Why don’t these countries or we put lots! more money into family planning?
Carl Haub: Well, the situation is, I think, a bit more mixed. E.g, immigrants from N. Africa come from countries with advanced family planning programs. Some of the countries with the lowest use and support of family planning, sub-Saharan Africa, send the fewest. But, ultimately, you’re right, a stabilization of population growth should leave to increased development and reduced “push” factors.

Aubrey W Bonnett: there is a return migration of people (scientists) from the USA to India????? will this increase and affect China too?
Carl Haub: I’m not sure of the magnitude of the migration “stream” you mention but not all migration is intended to be permanent. Some migrants only wish to acquire sufficient funds to establish their own business. You would think, however, that the growth of Indian corporations would attract return migrants.

Dr. Charles: What are the socio-economic consequences of migration into the United States
Carl Haub: Socially, of course, the country will become more diverse ethnically as it has from the beginning. Economically, since immigrants tend to be in the younger working ages, the ratio of workers to retirees will be improved.

Still, today, the situation is different in terms of numbers. There was almost no migration to the US from the 1930s until after WWII and, even after that, the numbers were only about 250,000. Today’s numbers are four times that and the countries of origin not “traditional.” So, ethnic change is far more noticeable.

Mmabatho: What is a culturally homogenous group and is there any group in the world that can claim this notion in its pure form. Lastly, how does migration deculturises people
Carl Haub: Well, there certainly are countries one could consider homogeneous. East Asia has any number (Japan, Vietnam). Many parts of Africa are, although they may not coincide with national boundaries.

Sadananda Mitra: Why does it term as global pressure of immigration? In my opinion, pull factors in the destination are more vital than the push factors at the origin. These skilled and talented labours are also absorbed, without creating extra burden of unemployment at the destination. Globalization gives wider opportunity to these immigrants to decide openly where to move. this is not a pressure, on the contrary may be mobilization of immigrants. One additional point may be added that migration policies of developed countries in ASIA and EUROPE great hurdles to away immigrants to move there rather than North America like USA and Canada.
Carl Haub: Well, I think the word pressure applies to the receiving countries, particularly the labor force short countries of Europe and Japan who are less used to immigration.

Zohreh: Dear sir, please tell me about how many people immigrated from middle east?
Carl Haub: If you mean to the US, there were about 800,000 foreign-born persons of Middle East origin at the 2000 Census.

Dr. Charles: Why are there so much restrictions in the conditions for obtaining visas into the US for Nigerians
Carl Haub: Well, while it isn’t a happy situation, countries are forced to do this to avoid the problem of legal entry becoming illegal visa overstaying. I don’t think Nigeria has been singled out, but the same basic rules apply to all countries.

Meghan Reppond: I think there is a prevalent perception in the United States that immigration and population growth are a bad thing. Other than economic growth, can you describe some of the benefits of population growth?
Carl Haub: A difficult question since economic growth is one of the arguments for immigration. I would think, in the case of the US, the willingness to take in certain numbers of refugees and the fact that immigration brings a certain enriching diversity and international understanding argues for it. But no growth at all would alleviate the challenge to plan and manage growth well, something we have not done.

Mabel Underwood: Do you think the U.S. needs an official Population Policy? If so, what should be the main tenets? Thank you.
Carl Haub: In a way, we do. Immigration law is a substantial declaration of policy. As far as fertility is concerned, it is already just at two children and I doubt people would take kindly to the government telling them to have fewer children!

Anup Saikia: While benefits accrue from skilled and educated migrants, would you agree that undocumented migrants that are illegal and frequently unwelcome cannot be prevented by receiving countries and will accentuate in the near future?
Carl Haub: Illegal immigration is very difficult to stop (India and the US are both considering building a wall) but not completely uncontrollable. The US does deport over 1 million per year.

Janet: Are ethnic groups in the U.S increasing proportionately? If not what groups are growing at a higher rate?
Carl Haub: The most rapid growth is among Hispanics while there is almost no growth among white non-Hispanics, the group we usually label as the majority.

Janet: Do you think that immigration from third world countries to developed countries is a threat or a benefit to the economy?
Carl Haub: Probably a benefit. Some take jobs “Americans don’t want” while others bring needed skills and even set up large, successful companies. Others would argue that we should train our own population rather than rely on others and contribute to their brain drain, a compelling point.

Joe Healey: Would you say that the US is more or less humane and welcoming to immigrants than other advanced industrial societies? What might explain the differences you see?
Carl Haub: I don’t think there is very much difference although the number deported is necessarily much greater than other countries.

Hanan Halabi: I submitted a question yesterday asking your perspective on the comment that immigration can be considered a “litmus test” for unsuccessful development in the Third World. On the whole, do you agree that “source” countries get the short end of the stick, or can you see immigration as a potential strategy for development?
Carl Haub: Generally, the Third World countries lose valuable talent. In an earlier response, I mentioned that more should be done to retain it.