Immigrants are a major asset to any country

By Jeff Chen 陳昌宏  / 

Sun, Apr 28, 2013 - Page 8

Following the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, the US strengthened its security and anti-terrorism measures, and established the Department of Homeland Security and other anti-terrorism agencies to implement a comprehensive search for potential terrorist activity.

When asking Americans at a US airport why they are willing to submit to the inconvenience of lengthy searches, the answer is: “Security first.”

The recent bombing in Boston is likely to further strengthen Americans’ anti-terrorism resolve, and these travel inconveniences are likely to continue for Americans and foreign visitors alike.

However, many Americans do not seem to consider the possibility that it is the multitude of ethnic groups in the US, and the clashes and discrimination between these groups, that are a source of many of the nation’s tragic killings.

Although there is no evidence that it was discrimination that led the main suspects in the Boston bombing to plan and carry out the attack, the fact remains that the two brothers were born outside the US.

Diaspora theory introduces the concept of “outliers” of a certain ethnic or national group, who may resort to extreme measures, such as harming fellow students, co-workers or friends, because they are not socially accepted by local groups, and because they cannot turn to their home country for support.

In an attack at the US Army’s Fort Hood base in Texas in 2009, 12 people were killed and more than 20 injured. The shooter was a US citizen, a Muslim of Middle Eastern descent.

Such tragedies occur the world over.

Immigrants are often among the most disadvantaged groups in any society, because they are not always made to feel welcome in their new country, and their country of origin may not provide adequate protection.

To be able to put down roots, they must work hard to learn the language of their new country and become socially integrated.

Some of these outliers are of course high achievers, but they often have to exert themselves many times harder than the local population to have a chance to compete. To succeed, they have to identify fully with the local population, although deep in their hearts, there may remain a degree of longing for their homeland.

Similarly, there are many recent immigrants from China and Southeast Asia in Taiwan. Work, family or marriage may have led them to leave their home countries.

Research has shown that a country’s immigration policies affect the relationship between immigrants and the local population, and to an extent, society’s acceptance of immigrants.

As immigration is a common occurrence in a globalized word, every nation should welcome immigrants and create a friendly environment for them.

The US is among the most popular destinations for emigrants, and it is partly because the US has accepted such large numbers of immigrants in the past that it has become so powerful and affluent.

However, there are also many racial problems and conflicts, and the US has not always been able to close the divides between ethnic groups.

This is why the attitude of Taiwan’s government is crucial in determining whether Taiwan will be considered as friendly or discriminatory toward immigrants.

The experience of Southeast Asia, the stronghold of ethnic Chinese immigrants, can teach governments around the world that immigrants, who may be driven by various factors to become hardworking, can be a great and valuable asset for their families and for their new home country.

Jeff Chen is an adjunct professor in the Center for General Education at National Taipei University.

Translated by Perry Svensson