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Global doors slam shut on immigrants

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In Europe, some countries have attempted to pay Africans and others to head back home, while Israelis are legislating against immigration in the name of demographic survival. Across continents, countries have closed doors on vulnerable refugees, and, in some places, nativism has reached such heights that urban residents even want their own rural migrants banished outside city limits.

Anti-immigrant sentiment, of course, has been a recurring theme throughout history. Just look at the reaction that boatloads of Irish and Italians got when they landed on America's doorstep in the 19th and 20th centuries.

Yet today the antipathy toward newcomers is more widespread, even if usually less violent. The number of people living outside their country of birth is larger than at any time in history, in part because it has never been easier to communicate and relocate. An impoverished villager in Bolivia need only flip on a television set to see opportunities awaiting him or her in Spain. The United Nations Population Division (UNDP) estimates that the world has about 200 million international migrants. If they created their own country, it would become the fifth largest in the world.

Contrary to popular perception, anti-immigrant sentiment today isn't just about rich nations shunning the mass arrival of migrants from poorer ones. It is poor nations sending their huddled masses to other poor nations. It is rich countries sending people to other rich ones. It is countries acting as transit corridors – switching stations of humanity. According to the UNDP, only about one-third of migrants move from a developing country to a developed one.

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