Top 10 Migration Issues of 2010

The year 2010 was a tough one for immigrants in the US, as it was for many native-born Americans. High unemployment left some people stranded here without work, unable to send the remittances that their families back home depend on. And many US communities—including some in nearby Virginia—became even more unwelcoming to newcomers than before.

Men wait for work at the Herndon, VA, day labor center in 2005. The town shut down the center in 2007 under pressure from anti-immigrant forces.
Photo by Brian Long

But here at Language ETC, we stayed strong, providing a warm welcome to immigrants and help in learning English—the key to successful integration and job advancement for many.

As we close out the year and the decade, here’s a look back at some of the main trends affecting immigrants in 2010. Click through for the story on each. Adapted from the December 2010 issue of Migration Information Source, published by the Migration Policy Institute.

1. Effects of the Great Recession: migration flows dropped, unemployment among certain immigrants rose. The year 2010 confirmed trends glimpsed months earlier in major immigrant-receiving countries. The global recession caused migration flows to drop, halting the rapid growth of immigrant populations. And it pushed unemployment levels for some immigrants far higher than those of the native-born.

2. The Arizona effect: when national governments fail, others react. Arizona’s simmering frustration with the federal immigration system, which has failed to stop undocumented immigration through Arizona’s border with Mexico, boiled over when the state legislature passed and Governor Jan Brewer signed SB 1070 in April 2010.

3. Painful cuts to integration budgets, even in places committed to immigrant integration. Recession-battered European countries, as well as a number of US states, made cuts to programs affecting immigrants in 2009 and again in 2010.

4. Europe, wary of immigration and immigrants, reaches an inflection point. A number of events in 2010 across the European continent, and particularly in places long seen as moderate, seem to indicate a larger shift away from openness.

5. United States still stalled on immigration reform; Republican victories in midterm elections change landscape. The defeat of the DREAM Act in the U.S. Senate in December 2010 put an end to any lingering hopes of comprehensive immigration reform in the near future.

Young supporters of the DREAM Act.
Photo by Korean Resource Center, 2007

6. Remittances rebound (somewhat) after recession. The worst is over, but the outlook remains grim. This seemed to be the general storyline for economic activity in developed countries during 2010, and it is largely true for remittance flows as well.

7. When all else fails, leave: emigration from Europe’s new destinations on the rise. Although non-Irish nationals, particularly those from Eastern Europe, led the exodus, Irish nationals now make up a sizeable proportion of those leaving, and Greece appears poised to become a net exporter of people as well.

8. Not just the highly skilled—only the best and brightest, please. In these lean times, countries still want talent—key to their long-term competitiveness—but a handful want more assurance they’re getting the cream of the cream, as well as skills they don’t have already.

9. Crackdown on illegal migration makes Greece main entry point to Europe. When there’s a will, there’s a way. Migrants seeking illegal entry have proven the old proverb true countless times as they and their smugglers have adapted to enforcement strategies. The latest development in the cat-and-mouse game comes from Europe.

10. Natural disasters in Haiti and Pakistan highlight diaspora response. Haiti and Pakistan were an unlikely pair until 2010, when horrific natural disasters made it impossible for the world to ignore their devastation.

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