If the US does not want to end up old like Italy or Japan, it needs this fresh blood arriving from Central America. As I wrote in my review of Jose Antonio Vargas's documentary Documented, the one of the biggest problems rich countries are facing is the aging of their populations. In Italy, for example, the median age is 43.5, and it's expected that by 2033, one-third of its citizens will be older than 65. That time is not that far away, and, as the economist Mark Blyth points out in his book Austerity: The History of a Dangerous Idea, those who are holding Italy's long-term sovereign debt must be worried about who is going to pay the interest on their 30-year bonds when the country will also be working to pay the pensions for all of these old people.
The simple solution would be to open the doors to immigrants, but Italy's citizens want nothing to do with that option. The United States is also heading in this direction. A recent Census Bureau report predicts that by 2050, as much as a fifth of the US population will be older than 65. The reason the US is not as old as Italy or other European countries is most likely its large immigrant population.
The surge of undocumented youths from Central America has overwhelmed federal facilities and revived the debate over an immigration policy overhaul, one of the most partisan issues in the already overheated political climate of an election year.
U.S. authorities estimate that 60,000 to 80,000 undocumented children will cross the border without their parents this year. While many have been released to family pending deportation hearings, others have been detained by authorities amid a growing backlog of pending cases.
Detaining and deporting these young people is the last thing this country needs if its economic system hopes to survive. And survival only means one thing for capitalism, growth; and old people do not grow and have no future. As Danny Dorling, a Professor of Human Geography at the University of Sheffield, points out in his book Population 10 Billion, the connection between capitalist growth and the state or nature of a nation's population is real. Japan is exactly facing the reality of this connection. Its economic system desperately needs young blood from places like the Philippines, but its political system is crippled by xenophobia:
Indeed, one of Japan's most profound economic burdens is the aging of its population. While immigration may not be the only policy that can help transform an "old" population from a burden to a driver of growth, it is self-defeating to refuse immigration to be part of the solution. America should take note as we go into our own 2014 fall election cycle, where immigration is now more likely to be on the agenda.
But it's doubtful that the US will be able to avoid the path that Japan has taken. We can expect more of the same crippling hysteria....
Today's anti-immigration protests bear a terrifying resemblance to the anti-integration protests of the 20th century. pic.twitter.com/0KzLTlTFfR
— Deepa Bhandaru (@deepabhandaru) July 4, 2014