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The Real Brain Drain

The August 9, 1993 cover of NEWSWEEK magazine portrayed a morose Statue of Liberty submerged in a flood of immigrants. Polls indicated that 60% of Americans regarded immigration as 'bad for the country'. Author Tom Morganthau explained why:

Two forces have been undercutting the perceived benefits of immigration in: the emergence of the welfare state and the decline in relevant immigrants' skills - a decline more or less matched by the majority of domestics. Donald Huddle, an immigration expert at Rice University, calculated that the 19.3 million legal, illegal and amnestied aliens accepted into the United States since 1970 (constituted) a net burden on native born taxpayers of $30.6 billion - a cost per immigrant of $1,585.

Canadians are more sanguine about their nation's immigration policy. We are proud that Canada has fewer native-borns than other developed nations. What we are less proud of is that this track record is partially because we no longer replenish our numbers domestically, much less expand them to satisfy industrial capitalism's requirement for perpetual growth. On a per-capita basis, Canada has been admitting 12 times as many immigrants as the United States.

In spite of this historically generous stance, recent Canadian legislations have imposed stringent educational and financial standards upon would-be immigrants.

How serious has Canada's ‘improper immigration’ problem come to be perceived? In a Sept. 27, 1993 article entitled "Immigration Policy is Out of Control", Toronto Star columnist - and grateful immigrant himself - Frank Jones observed:

Since 1978, anyone who could secure a foothold in Canada formed an immediate beachhead for whole clans of relatives back home. The result: immigrants with the skills Canada really wants – whether from Third World countries or from Western countries – are squeezed out, until now only 15 per cent of the 250,000 people a year arriving here qualify under the points system.

In 1990, the Canadian government added a new tool to the Immigration Department’s kit. Henceforth, visas would be fast-tracked if immigrants made substantial commercial or industrial investments. In 1990, the amount was $150,000. In 1992, this rose to $350,000 in Quebec, Ontario, Nova Scotia and British Columbia and $250,000 in the other provinces.

In 1999, the amount rose to $400,000.

This is not surprising. The well-educated and wealthy are welcome wherever they wish to go.

Unfortunately, such policies are not only immoral, they are dangerous . Sorting candidate immigrants in terms of who might benefit host nations is unlikely to appease those left behind, and almost certain to give successful applicants an enlarged sense of entitlement and hubris.

These consequences are tacitly admitted when governments define special opportunities for victims of war and oppression. Canada makes fast-tracks refugee claimants.

The question to ask is whether these responses are compasionate responses to suffering – or conscience-salving fillips papering over the harm of decades of brain and wealth draining immigration policies?

No reasonable person could dispute that filling immigration quotas with the well-educated and solvent applicants also siphons off those most able to oppose miscreant leaders and stimulate Third World economies. What happens to such excellent people when they make it to Canada? On March 25, 2000, Michelle Goldberg, (research analyst with the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities) reported:

“The Facts are In! Newcomers’ Experiences in Accessing Regulated Professions in Ontario”. Immigrants are experiencing difficulty obtaining employment in the fields for which they are trained. After 3 years in Canada, more than 60% are working in menial jobs unrelated to their professional training.

What was even more striking was her observation that “the vast majority – 97 per cent of the 100,000 immigrants Ontario receives each year are university – or college – educated.”

The benefits of this selection process have been widely recognized. In a letter to the Community Press, April 7, 2000, Christian Bertelsen of Madoc, Ontario paraphrased remarks by Bob Godkin, Executive Director for Quinte United Immigrant Services:

It is ... a myth that immigrants use up tax money in welfare and resettlement services. Each immigrant pays around $1,500 in Government fees. The total sum for all immigrants creates a tax surplus. Most immigrants are well educated and bring us talent and expertise. They are a brain gain not a brain drain.

For decades, western nations have been welcoming a certain class of immigrants with open arms – the well educated and the well-to-do. These individuals would have been political and economic players had they remained where they were born. Their flight left ‘remaindered’ populations to face an entirely predictable bedlam of tin-pot dictators, corrup politicians and corporate brutality.

Accordingly, for both moral and prudential reasons, Western nations should reverse their immigration policies. Quotas should be filled from the ranks of the impoverished or brutalized. This would encourage the well-educated and well-heeled to repair proceedings in nations of origin rather than concoct exotic extraction stratagems for themselves and their families.

In the meantime, short-sighted immigration practices have been contributing to global turmoil. Would-be Hitlers enjoy seeing potential adversaries fleeing to safer climes. They know that this guarantees that they will enjoy continued access to hapless domestics.


What about objections to filling immigration quotas with individuals unable to advantage receiving nations? This is an even more subtle hypocrisy. Western immigration policies only admit immigrants if they meet certain educational and economic standards? We do not discriminate on the basis of religion, race or colour, but we do make judgements on the basis of economic worth and potential. If immigrants are sufficiently like us in these characteristics, this is apparently sufficient to paper over cultural and physiological differences.

Western nations’ founding principles include claims that neither geography nor genetics nor fiscal fortune determine the value of individuals. To countenance immigration policies that systematically exclude the uneducated and brutalized is to fly in the face of our most cherished axioms.

The choice is clear: If Canada has no stomach for filling immigration quotas with the world's oppressed, we must exclude everyone. Until would-be immigrants with pockets full of cash have repaired the economic and political travesties that caused them to book flights into Toronto International Airport, how can we, in good conscience, round up refugees and stowaways and ship them home?

Canada’s aboriginals treated our forefathers more honestly.

Indeed, almost all of the immigrants who settled in North America were just the sort Canada's immigration policies now seek to exclude.