Can you compare our policy and debate on immigration with any other country?
There are two other countries whose debates on immigration are relatively familiar to me. These are Japan and Singapore.
There are at least two major differences between our debates and theirs. First, their debates are centered on the issue of legal immigration while America’s debate is more focused on illegal immigration. Second, their debates are driven much more by economic necessity than ours is. In our country, many people say that getting rid of illegal immigrants would help open up jobs for our native-born citizens. By contrast, in both Japan and Singapore, there is the feeling that immigration would help their economy. The Japanese, for example, have a population that is rapidly aging and they need more workers. Therefore, there is much more of a felt economic need for immigration in those countries.
A major similarity between our debate and theirs has to do with culture. In all countries, there are fears that the native culture will be diluted. In the US, we fear that we will become a country where too many people don’t speak English. In Japan, there are even greater fears that immigrants would make Japan less Japanese.
In these ways, our debate about immigration shares some similarities with those of Japan and Singapore but is also different in some ways.