Our screens have been filled with images of boats brimming with people crossing the channel of late. And plenty of political posturing.
And not an ounce of humanity.
If you feel like lecturing me on the sanctity of borders and the free-rider effect unchecked migration may have on public services, before you go any further, let me remind you that:
- I have a PhD in politics with a specialisation in nationalism and how notions of ‘legitimacy’ are constructed. So I am in a position to enlighten you or diagnose you, but frankly, not persuade you if you have drank the nationalism Kool-Aid.
- Agents external to the system cannot free-ride – access being an essential component to getting more than you should in the first place.
So the free-rider problem is real and, as any public policy specialist will tell you, accounted for when the cost of public services is calculated. Also it is always occurring from within the citizen body.
An immigrant can’t access until they are considered a contributor, you know… with a tax code and a national insurance number they pay contributions against. So they can’t over-access, by default.
Services freely offered to the dispossessed is not the same as free-riding. This matters.
- Research from the book ‘Immigrants: your country needs them’ by Philippe Legrain, among others, shows immigrants have been found to be net contributors to the economy across all geographies, verticals and age groups with a small variation across blue collar males in their early 20s.
So, if you want to tut and talk about how you need to look after your own first or how ‘we can’t let everyone in’, knock yourself out. Just not here.
I am up to my limit.
Up to my limit with hearing, across the globe, in every jurisdiction and shape of regime, ‘immigration’ being a topic discussed alongside ‘crime’ and ‘education’.
Its own problem statement laden with unspoken rebuke.
I am up to my limit with the facile arguments that see our obligations going as far as our prejudice requires, to make our point.
Up to my limit with the abject lack of humanity when we look at people for whom that crossing, that flimsy overcrowded boat at the mercy of the waves and the smugglers, is a better choice than life as they know it.
Immigrants are net contributors to the economy. So check your prejudice. If not for the sake of kindness, then for your own economic prosperity.
Immigrant is not a dirty word
I was asked recently in an interview what I mean when I describe myself as an immigrant.
The interviewer actually had a nifty little intro ready, teeing me up to talk about digital nomads and figurative migrants into a land of increasing complexity where our skillsets (as bankers or as digital native disruptors, respectively) are ‘other’ and therefore sometimes met with resistance, ‘ingroup’ reflexes, mockery and attempts to belittle the newcomer and their value.
Full marks for effort. And full marks for capturing the daily life of an immigrant.
I don’t mean I am digital nomad.
I mean I left my home, my family and my country with two suitcases and a lot of hope to go to a country other than that of my birth in pursuit of greater opportunity. Dictionary definition of an economic migrant, that.
And yes, it was legal.
And yes, I remain legally here.
And yes, I have always been here legally and no, I never crossed in a dingy and yes, I have always paid my taxes.
But you see what’s going on here, right?
We all knew these are the first questions to be answered.
Not what opportunities did you avail yourself of and, more importantly for the community here: what value did you add?
Did you generate income?
Did you expand the economy?
Did you create jobs?
Further education? Did you add to the economy?
Yes, yes, yes, yes and yes again.
Not you, the other ones
I got that a lot, particularly after Brexit. People telling me they voted out because ‘immigration’ then realising who they are speaking to as the speech bubble is halfway out their mouths and saying ‘not you though, the other ones’.
There are no other ones.
We are it.
I am what we look like after the experiment has worked. After we were lucky enough to get what we came here for: the opportunity to work hard, contribute and show you what we can contribute, create and magic into existence.
Look at me.
This is what we look like.
And to quote Hamilton (the musical, not the statesman): we get the job done.
Often despite the folks we serve.
I got a note a few days ago (you know who you are) that said: “Thank you. I have been observing you from afar. You helped me believe that a woman with an accent, far away from home, can carve a path. In this city. In this industry. In this climate.”
I won’t lie.
I had a little cry.
And then I sat down and wrote this.
Just to say: Look at me.
I have a long way to go still, but I haven’t had a bad run so far.
I’ve done things.
Net net, I have contributed through teaching, industry, volunteering, ecosystem building and a lot of tax.
Look at me. Not to admire. Just to see.
I am an immigrant. This is what we look like. When you let us.
Leda Glyptis is FinTech Futures’ resident thought provocateur – she leads, writes on, lives and breathes transformation and digital disruption.
She is a recovering banker, lapsed academic and long-term resident of the banking ecosystem. She is chief client officer at 10x Future Technologies.
All opinions are her own. You can’t have them – but you are welcome to debate and comment!