I do not have to tell you that we are in the midst of a very tough financial period. In the United States, home foreclosures and loan defaults are at record highs. The stock markets, world wide, have plunged in a relentless fashion with what seems like no end in sight. The news of what is described as the US “Credit Crunch” dominates the headlines. The ability to obtain loans or credit by businesses and individuals from financial institutions has been severely restricted. When credit which is the “grease” that allows the machinery of the economy to run, dries up, then we are in real trouble. Banks are undercapitalized and as such are more reluctant to give loans.
From an immigration perspective, this will likely translate into more restrictive immigration policies by governments. How? In times of economic strain where unemployment rises, the demand for foreign workers by businesses subsides as does the pressure on governments to “open the doors” to immigrants. To exacerbate this problem, in times of low employment, usual cries against immigrants for “taking away jobs” from nationals can be heard louder than ever.
I therefore fear that the climate of financial uncertainty that we are in will soon become one of anti-immigration sentiment. A similar phenomena occurred post 9-11, the effects of which still resonate in immigration policy and practice. As a US immigration official put it to me then, “over night, immigration policy was transformed from a service oriented focus to one of predominantly enforcement oriented”. And we have never looked back.
Now with the current financial crises, I fear that fuel will be added to the immigration fire. And when the dust settles and the stock market begins to rise and banks are again giving out loans, the victims still suffering may be the intending immigrants, skilled workers and families who find themselves before a closed door to Canada and the US.
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