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Mass migration is here to stay

Mexicans illegally crossing the US border. David Turnley/Corbis/VCG/Getty

Some time around 2016, says Andrew Sullivan on Substack, it really looked like Western voters had decided to get a grip on migration. Donald Trump was elected to build his wall; Boris Johnson to deliver Brexit. But in the years since, basically nothing has happened. The US added more than a million citizens in 2022, bringing the foreign-born population close to 50 million. And in Britain, far from ending mass migration, Brexit seems to have “turbo-charged” it. In 2010, David Cameron promised to cut the number of people coming in to “tens of thousands” a year; in 2022, the figure topped 600,000. One in four Brits – and one in two Londoners – has a foreign-born mother. “I don’t think that’s what Brexit voters had in mind.”

Some argue that this “failure to even restrain, let alone control” mass migration is the result of cynical leadership by Trump and Johnson, neither of whom had any sincere intentions beyond ginning up votes. Others say climate-accentuated mass movement from the global south to the north is finally kicking in, and that we’ll simply get used to millions of foreigners living among us. “Diversity is our strength! And all that.” Or, we may be living “on the precipice of something much worse” – a reactionary lurch toward authoritarianism fuelled by fears of “native replacement”. Failing to act could cost the Tories “what’s left of any trust they once had”, making way for a serious far-right party. As for the US, Trump could soon seem like the beginning of something “much darker”.