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by William H. Benson

September 8, 2016

     Japan has a sizable population but a small land mass. About 127 million people live on just 377,930 km². Among the world’s countries, its population ranks 11th, but its geographical area ranks 61st.

     Canada is the reverse. It has a small population, but a large land mass. Just 36.5 million people live on nearly 10 million km². Its population ranks 38th, but its geographical area ranks second, just behind Russia’s colossal 17 million km². Canada could absorb a much larger population.

     For decades, and even centuries, Japan has discouraged immigration, and today “the people pride themselves on their homogeneity.” One writer said that the Japanese people have “reflexively blamed foreigners for all social ills,” and that “discrimination is still rife.” In a derogatory tone, they label foreigners as “gaijin,” meaning an “outside person.”

     The Japanese fear an invasion of foreigners. They do not want terrorists. They do not want to see burkinis on their beaches. They want Japan for the Japanese. One writer, Tatsuya Mizuno, said that even “Brazilians of Japanese origin, who were encouraged to migrate to Japan in the 1980’s, have never really been accepted, despite their Japanese ethnicity.”

     The need for immigration into Japan though is paramount. Today, Japan’s companies have trouble hiring sufficient numbers of skilled workers. A substantial number of working-age people are set to retire in the next few decades, and a writer for The Economist magazine predicted that Japan’s population will shrink to less than 100 million people by the year 2060.

     Japan’s prime minister, Shinzo Abe, recognizes the worsening demographics but has hesitated to throw open his countries’ doors. His government though “has quietly eased Japan’s near-ban on visas for low-skilled workers.” In Tokyo now, visitors can see people from Korea, China, India, Vietnam, and Thailand, but, “Only tiny numbers of foreigners ever become Japanese citizens.”

     The opposite has happened in Canada. Forty-five years ago, on October 8, 1971, Canada’s prime minister then, Pierre Trudeau, and the father of the current prime minister, Justin Trudeau, introduced legislation that threw out the old race-based immigration rules, and introduced a color-blind policy that instead emphasized language, experience, and education. He opened Canada’s doors, and no prime minister since has dared to shut them.

     As a result, Canada is now the one of the most multi-cultural countries in the world. Each year Canada welcomes about 250,000 people. In June 2000, Prime Minister Jean Chrétien said, “Canada has become a post-national, multicultural society. It contains the globe within its borders. . . . Canadians are, by virtue of history and necessity, open to the world.” On immigration, Canada has triumphed.

     A Canadian journalist, Jonathan Tepperman, recently said on a TED talk that “Canada has four times France’s immigration rate, and that in 2015, Canada took in ten times the number of Syrian refugees that the United States did.”

     On Wednesday, August 31, the Republican contender for the Oval Office, Donald Trump, flew—not north to Canada—but south to Mexico. There he met Mexico’s president, Enrique Peña Nieto, who declared to Trump that “Mexican nationals in the United States are honest people, good people. Mexicans deserve respect.” As for who pays for the wall, Trump said, “we didn’t discuss that.”

     If he had dared to look outside, he would have seen a Mexican citizen, a lady, holding up a sign that read, “¡Fuera! ¡Fuera! Donald Trump Racista. Xenofobo. Anitmexicano.”

     To appeal to voters, Trump has softened his hardline campaign promise on the deportation of the 11.5 million undocumented workers in the United States. Most citizens are “appalled by the prospect of ‘federal agents breaking up families’ and shipping millions of people across the border.”

     Yet, Trump’s newest campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway, summarized Trump’s current policy, “No amnesty. No legalization. No sanctuary cities. The people who have committed a crime are gone.” A reporter at The Baltimore Sun summed up Trump’s wavering, “Rarely has a presidential candidate flip-flopped on an issue as throughly as Trump has done on illegal immigration.”

     One wonders which country approaches immigration right? A closed Japan, an open Canada, an open United States that now threatens to deport its illegals, or a country like Mexico, or even Syria, that has exported millions of its own citizens? The answer depends first upon geography: whether the land mass offers a temperate climate, sufficient rainfall, fertile soil, and adequate minerals, timber, flora, and fauna. It also depends upon the population’s size, skills, work habits, and education.

     Governing officials seek to balance their country’s geography with its population. What is right for one country may not work for another. Still, ambitious and energetic people will by instinct migrate to the country that offers them the best opportunity, and for the last four centuries that has been the United States. Warren Buffet says, “The babies being born in America today are the luckiest crop in history.”