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By Manjula Luthria* and Casey Weston**
This year’s European parliamentary elections revealed three important paradoxes in European migration dialogue. First, public discourse displayed egregious misalignment between popular perceptions of immigration and immigration realities. These unfounded perceptions of immigration’s impacts fueled the ascent of anti-immigration and xenophobic political parties and, unfortunately, underpinned national-level dialogue. The abstract nature of national dialogue stemmed from a second gap: the failure of national policymakers to engage and learn from more practical local-level discourse about migration. Had national leaders engaged local leadership in the discussion, they might have avoided the third misalignment: asking the question, “Does immigration benefit destination communities?” This inquiry is poorly framed not only because empirical evidence has largely answered it in the affirmative, but also because it assumes that the phenomenon of migration can be immediately stopped (and has not always been occurring). A more productive query, and one that local and regional leaders have already begun to ask themselves and their constituencies, is: “How can destination communities maximize the benefits of migration?” Exploring this question is the best way to arrive at practical policy tools that benefit natives and immigrants, alike.
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*** This article was originally published in issue #3 of The New European, the magazine edited by UNITEE, the New European Business Confederation.