Throughout the developed world, countries are tightening up border security, building fences, and raising citizenship requirements. But there are still a few places left that are willing to say: “Give us your huddled masses.”
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Where they come from: Africa, South Asia, Eastern Europe
Immigrants as percentage of population: 14 percent
Why they’re welcome: There’s enough wealth to go around. Known primarily as a source of immigrants throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, the “Celtic Tiger” economic boom of the last decade and the resulting prosperity have now made the Emerald Isle an attractive destination. Ireland is also unique in the political rights it grants to noncitizens, which include voting, joining the police force, and running for local office. In the Dublin suburb of Portlaoise last summer, Nigerian-born Rotimi Adebari was elected as Ireland’s first black mayor. Although a few incidents of racial harassment have been reported, the backlash has been minimal, and Ireland doesn’t have the far-right nationalist parties that are common throughout the rest of Europe.
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Where they come from: North Africa, Latin America
Immigrants as percentage of population: 11 percent
Why they’re welcome: It’s all about the growth. Like Ireland, Spain spent decades as an economic basket case, but it is now one of Europe’s best-performing economies, thanks largely to its open-door immigration policy, instituted in the late 1990s. Spain has absorbed more than 3 million immigrants, and 11 percent of its population is now foreign-born. Many are attracted by Spain’s thriving construction sector, and minimum-wage agriculture and service jobs are increasingly filled by immigrants. Despite some fears provoked by the 2004 Madrid train bombings, carried out in part by Moroccan immigrants, Spain is keeping the door open and responded to its illegal-immigration problem with a large-scale amnesty in 2005. It’s not all good news for immigrants, though. Human Rights Watch blasted the Spanish government last summer for mistreating African migrant children at its Canary Islands detention centers.
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Where they come from: East Asia, South Asia
Immigrants as percentage of population: 19 percent
Why they’re welcome: The country is running out of workers. Canada’s finance minister recently said that population and labor shortages are Canada’s most pressing economic challenges. One out of 7 Canadians is now a senior citizen, and the country’s fertility rate has been below replacement level since the early 1970s. In response, lawmakers in Ottawa are considering enhancing Canada’s immigration laws, which are already among the world’s most liberal. Canada has accepted around 200,000 immigrants per year over the last 10 years. Canada is also known for having a remarkably open policy for asylum seekers and accepts nearly half of those who seek refugee status. (The United States accepts less than a third.) Security concerns since 9/11 have led Canada to beef up security along its southern border and increase police surveillance powers, but these measures have not led to a decrease in immigration.
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Where they come from: East Asia and the Pacific Islands
Immigrants as percentage of population: 16 percent
Why they’re welcome: Because New Zealand wants the best. In how many countries can you imagine a politician saying, “We are in a global race for talent and we must win our share,” as New Zealand’s then immigration minister did in 2005? For New Zealand, immigration is all about skills. Applicants are awarded a score based on their level of occupational ability. Those scoring above a certain level are automatically granted entrance. With high levels of economic growth and a low population, New Zealand’s policies are geared toward shoring up key sectors of the country’s economy. On the whole, immigrants are thriving in New Zealand’s economic boom and receive public assistance at a lower level than the population at large. The good times may not last forever, though. Nationalist politicians routinely grumble about how the influx of Asian immigrants is changing the country’s demographic makeup, and the government is gradually raising language and skill requirements.