What role for philanthropy in opening up migration?

Alexander Berger

As Michael Clemens argues in this issue, allowing more migration to wealthy countries is one of the most powerful strategies for reducing global poverty. However, immigration policy is a matter over which receiving countries often exercise almost unilateral control, and they have rarely supported larger inflows. What can foundations do to help?

In the US, while foundations have been supporters of stronger protection for migrants once they arrive, they have rarely supported advocacy to allow more migration. A big part of the problem is that the potential immigrants aren’t there to advocate their own interests with either funders or the public.

Another reason foundations have overlooked migration is that it falls between domestically oriented funders and those focused on development abroad. For domestic funders, migrants who haven’t arrived yet are obviously outside their scope. For development funders, as Oxfam’s Duncan Green has observed, migration is often seen as a failure in sending countries, a problem rather than a solution.

'Sometimes, we support development ‘over there’ so that ‘they’ won’t show up over here. This is both empirically and morally mistaken.'

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