News and views from the award-winning author of the novels The Skinny Years, America Libre, House Divided and Pancho Land

Monday, July 4, 2016

Brexit, Immigration and Cuba

Immigration continues to be a thorny topic and Brexit is the latest installment.

Many in the mainstream populations of the Western world now live in fear of change. Those at the bottom rungs of the economic ladder feel immigration threatens their jobs. Others worry about the dilution of their culture. And, let's be candid, there is also a significant element of racism mixed in with these fears.

But the economics of immigration are brutally simple. The mainstream populations of the U.S. and Western Europe (which includes Great Britain whether they like it or not) are aging rapidly. With fertility rates in these nations at an all-time low, it will be impossible for their economies to grow without an infusion of youth. Step in the Developing Nations.

As a Cuban immigrant, I see these trends in a different perspective.

For one thing, we could bring over all of Cuba's 11 million inhabitants and the U.S. population would grow by less than 3%. Another big difference is the Cuban Adjustment Act which allows any Cuban who reaches U.S. soil front-of-the-line status for a green card within one year. No other nation enjoys this privileged U.S. immigration status. With the CAA likely to expire as relations between the U.S. and Cuba improve, it’s little wonder we’ve seen a surge in boat people in the last year. They are trying to get in under the wire.

But Cuba is an exception.

Immigration is a complex problem that defies simple-minded solutions. We cannot have open borders. Nor can we build a wall to keep out people who can contribute to the success of our economies. Fear-mongering and demonizing--by either side of the debate--is not the place to start. It's time to look for rational remedies. The alternative to this approach will be continued economic decline and growing social unrest. The Brexit fallout is proof of that.

Raul Ramos y Sanchez

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