The wide-scale movement of people is as much a defining feature of globalization as the movement of goods, services, and capital. And countries are just as reluctant—if not more so—to open their borders to people as to those items. As with trade and capital, citizens fear that their culture and their jobs are susceptible to being eliminated by uncontrolled immigration. At the same time—again, as with free trade and investment—economies and societies need input from outside their borders in order to continue economic growth.
Furthermore, some countries, most importantly the United States, are ideologically committed to open borders because of the nature of their national identity as a mix of different immigrant groups. European countries are less open to immigration and significant social conflict has developed between native citizens and new arrivals, particularly those from Africa and the Middle East. Even countries that send migrants to other countries and benefit from the remittances they send back are concerned about “brain drain” that may limit their development.
Nevertheless, migration will be a major, unstoppable fact of global life until the economic disparities between sending and receiving states are eliminated, if ever. Even when goods, services, or capital can be blocked by government action, the smuggling of human beings and the resulting population of illegal immigrants in host countries is a common feature of developed countries. Dealing with both legal and illegal immigration, then, is one of the pressing issues facing governments and societies across the world.