Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Irritant Immigrants

It comes as no great news that "THE VAST majority (72 per cent) of people want to see a reduction in the number of non-Irish immigrants living here" according to an Irish Times poll. The surprising bit in the poll is that 26% want to keep existing immigrant numbers. Quite predictably, about a third want most immigrants to leave. I was a tad surprised that 81% of the respondents in the 18-24 age group wanted to cut immigrant numbers, while wanting to emigrate! Hypocrisy? Futility of education in changing attitudes? Whatever it is, it punctures the stereotype of the uneducated and old anti-immigrant country bumpkin.

Outsidein has an excellent post on the topic here. He questions the assumptions behind the anti-immigrant sentiment: "When the 1,004 participants in this survey were picturing the typical immigrant, who did they have in mind? The typical immigrant in Ireland is someone from an EU-member state. Europeans, based on the last census, make us something like 70% of the immigrant population. Do the 38% of 18-24 year olds who want to see most immigrants leave really want to boot out the Brits, French, Germans, and Poles?"

There is a clear need for comprehensive reform of the immigration system in Ireland. It is expensive, clunky, and inefficient. One only has to look at the long lines outside the Garda office on Tara Street to see the sheer waste and inefficiency that characterizes the system. Standing in long lines for hours merely to submit a form might have been acceptable 20 years ago. It is absurd today. Reform must ensure that those with desirable skills are brought in to contribute to growth. As it currently stands, the system treats desirables and undesirables alike and throws them into a bureaucratic maze after tying them up with a lot of red tape. This can only yield more undesirables and fewer desirables.