The global impasse over immigration
Walter Russell Mead
The Wall Street Journal
Throughout the Western world, immigration is the most divisive issue of our times, said Walter Russell Mead. Anger over a large influx of immigrants “powered Donald Trump’s triumph over the Republican and Democratic establishments, while tipping the U.K. referendum toward Brexit.” In Germany, Prime Minister Angela Merkel—“once the unchallenged master of European politics”—has been badly weakened by her decision to admit 1 million Middle Eastern and African immigrants, and is now struggling to form a governing coalition. Why is immigration “so radioactive?” Educated elites and the business class strongly favor immigration on “economic and moral grounds.” But many working- and middle-class voters believe that low-skilled immigrants depress wages, bring social problems, and siphon off public benefits. Their resentment has given rise to right-wing populist movements throughout the West. Over time, the conflict over immigration will only grow, as hundreds of millions of people from poor and chaotic countries in the Middle East, Africa, and Central America seek to migrate to North America and the European Union. To avoid an even bigger backlash, political leaders must find a middle ground between a naïve open-door policy and “ugly nativism.” Without “pragmatic reform,” this fight will get far uglier.