"We in the West have the tendency to feel overwhelmed when migrants arrive," says Thomas Weiss, chief of mission in Mexico City for the International Organization for Migration. "This is without understanding exactly that many developing countries are at the present facing irregular flows that are much stronger and much more difficult to be absorbed by society and by local labor markets."
Much of the resistance to outsiders stems from familiar fears: that the immigrants will take jobs, tax services, increase crime, and alter national identities. Yet if the reasons behind today's anxieties are common, the extent to which they are being expressed isn't. "We have witnessed a great deal of anti-immigrant sentiment in history," says Mark Miller, an international migration expert at the University of Delaware and coauthor of "The Age of Migration." "[But] it was not a global phenomenon to the extent that it is today. Now virtually every area of the earth is involved in significant ways in international migration."
Is today's backlash against immigrants a temporary phenomenon or the start of a more permanent do-not-enter movement? Has the world reached its maximum capacity to tolerate outsiders? Has, in other words, the notion of accepting the world's tired, its poor, its huddled masses become a quaint ideal of some era long past?