Moving Millions – Coyote Capitalism

There is too much and there is not enough immigration are opposing dialogues that summarise the discourse on immigration in Canada. Those favouring immigration stress the humanitarian responsibilities of wealthier societies and the need in Canada’s case to address the demographic deficit of an ageing population and falling birth rate. Those opposed argue that immigration aggravates the level of unemployment and causes ethnic conflict when people from different cultures mix with each other and with the founding French, English and aboriginal communities. Similar arguments are heard in other countries especially in Europe and Asia. Turkish migrants to Western Europe face a hostile reception, while Japan has a policy of racial homogeneity which opposes immigration despite its obvious ageing population.

Immigration research is often one-sided. In developed countries, the focus is on its domestic impact with little consideration of the effect which it has on those countries supplying immigrants. When outward migration occurs, the possibility of a brain drain is mentioned but little suggested to mitigate the effects. Developing countries are far more aware of the loss to their economies and the low probability that emigrants will return, although they may send remittances home. In the case of the Philippines, remittances in 2008 were the second largest source of export revenues after electronics. Another ignored consequence is that any benefit from aid is negated when developed countries compete to attract the best and brightest from the aid recipients.

In a sense the mix of migration and economics has always been so, as documented in Jeffrey Kaye’s excellent new book Moving Millions, How Coyote Capitalism Fuels Global Immigration (Wiley 2010). He recounts how the long-time residents of Hazelton, Pennsylvania are reacting today to the arrival of Hispanics in exactly the same way that in earlier times residents of neighbouring coal mining communities responded to the arrival of Slavic, English, Scottish, Welsh, Irish, Italian, and Lithuanian miners from around 1875 to 1910. Their descendants have responded to the Hispanic invasion with the passage in 2006 of “one of the nation’s strictest anti-illegal immigration laws.”

Kaye’s book is based on extensive interviews with recent immigrants to the US and with those responsible both for attempting to integrate them into American society and for preventing them from entering in the case of illegals. Immigration is an international industry and one which works in the shadows as suggested by chapter titles such as “Recruitment Agencies and Body Shops,” “Smugglers as Migration Service Providers,” and “Servitude and Cash Flows.” It is not a pretty picture and, although commented on in the press, is seldom given the in-depth treatment that Kaye provides by looking at the economics and politics in both the source and recipient countries for migrants.

There are some delicious ironies reported where right wing opponents in the US and other developed countries, who deplore the social consequences of legal and illegal immigration are opposed by their right wing colleagues, who own businesses that would die without the immigrant workers. Their left wing opponents have in some instances exploited this division in order to gain recognition of the problems posed and lobby for changes to immigration policy.

Elsewhere Kaye details the operation of international supply chains that link supply to demand for all types of migrants and outlines the political pressures in both developed countries and the few international bodies that address migration issues. Most of the examples provided are from the US experience with recognition given to the movement of Africans across the Mediterranean into Europe, and those who migrate from Eastern to Western Europe as well as from Vietnam to Poland.

The book is a healthy reminder that we are all immigrants in North America including aboriginals if one goes back far enough, as they too came from somewhere else. Despite the past American civil war and current frictions, a large number of immigrants have integrated into North American society within a short time period.

Kaye recounts his own ancestry from continental Europe and the UK. Mine is a mix. My father’s ancestors came to England from what is now France sometime after 1066. I and my wife came to Canada in the 1950s. My children were born in Canada but one left to live in Thailand and has a Thai wife. They now live in Singapore and we have twin Thai-Canadian grandsons. I challenge anyone in North America and most other countries to research their ancestry and not find an immigrant connection. When deploring the present, remember the past.

Kaye’s final chapter surveys the weak international attempts to address the issues that arise in both source and recipient countries for immigrants. Economist Jagdish Bhagwati has proposed a global agency to regulate immigration policies, similar to the WTO for trade. In 1990 the UN General Assembly adopted an International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families. By 2009, 41 of 192 member states had ratified it, but none included a migrant-dependent industrialized nation.

I found this book a significant contribution to understanding global migration. Unlike most discussions it forces the reader to look at the circumstances of both sending and receiving countries in the migratory process as well as those countries through which migrants travel.

The term Coyote Capitalism in the book’s title refers less to the animal that roams the border area between Mexico and the US and more to coyote’s original meaning of “an illegitimate intermediary for cutting red tape,” a role economists will recognize. The immigration industry supply chain has similarities to what happened during prohibition with dubious intermediaries ensuring the flow of booze.


3 Responses to “Moving Millions – Coyote Capitalism”

  1. Jean-Louis Wallace Says:

    You may wish to also look at the New York Times article published in a recent Sunday edition regarding the topic.

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