Immigration is essential (according to the science) | Dean Burnett

“Just because a dog is born in a stable, doesn’t make it a horse.” The implication of this cliché being that being born in a country doesn’t make you “of” that country; you have to be part of the culture and history or something (it’s never really made clear). But the claim that being born in a stable doesn’t make a dog a horse is scientifically correct. Similarly, being born in a stable doesn’t make a horse a horse; genes resulting from millions of years of evolution make a horse a horse. Birth location does not alter DNA to the extent that it changes species. Ergo, people born in a country are essentially biologically identical to those who arrive there later. Humans are humans, wherever you go.

But immigration is an important issue to many, in the UK and elsewhere. Many see a hard-line anti-immigration stance as a vote winner. Anti-immigrant feeling is regularly encouraged and exaggerated by the media, most recently with the Daily Express’s definitely-not-racist-who-said-it-was? anti-immigration petition.

Of course limitless, unmonitored immigration would be a bad thing. A country’s infrastructure could collapse due to confusion alone. But it seems many in the UK want strong action taken against immigrants. Ergo, people think immigration is bad overall.

Does this hold up to scientific scrutiny? Does the data support this view though? Can so many people be wrong? Yes, they can. There are many arguments against immigration, and they’re generally wrong.


The most basic anti-immigration argument stems from the belief that Britain is “full”.

Firstly, Britain has more of a surface area than a volume, so it would be fairer to say it’s “covered”, but that’s just semantics. The argument implies Britain doesn’t have the capacity to sustain any more people, so every immigrant who arrives makes things worse for everyone by stretching our meagre resources further.

However, recent data suggests that just 2.2% of Britain is “developed” in any way, and that’s a generous estimate. Arguably it would be very helpful to build more, construct new homes and expand further, rather than pay increasingly high amounts for existing property. Some more room to breathe and grow might be good for everyone, immigrant or not. Of course, building thousands of new homes would require a lot of affordable labour, and traditionally there’s one place to get that…


The most common modern argument against immigrants is the economic burden they cause. Politicians play this card depressingly often, but it’s a common claim. You’ll often hear complaints about immigrants “coming over here, claiming benefits and taking our jobs”, a mutually-exclusive scenario loudly complained about by the misinformed, bigots, or the extreme of both combined, Richard Littlejohn.

It makes little logical sense in either case. Anyone willing to leave their country of birth, travel thousands of miles and go through the process of gaining citizenship probably has a work ethic that wouldn’t settle for £50 a week. And as for taking your jobs, if you lose out on a job to a recently arrived individual from a war torn country who can’t speak English, perhaps your own CV needs some serious updating?

Actual data shows that immigration has a generally positive impact on a county’s economy, what with immigrants doing work, paying taxes, spending their money in the country and all that. Even parts of our infrastructure on which the economy depends are owned by foreigners. Places where strong anti-immigrant policies have been enacted usually suffer economic downturns as a result. It seems like stopping immigration to improve the economy is like hacking your foot off because you’ve got a stone in your shoe; you’ve caused a lot of needless suffering, and it still hurts to walk.


Some people argue that immigration is bad because it’s not “British”, or ruins “Britishness”. It’s very hard to scientifically assess something based on someone’s subjective interpretation of an unspecified term, as some have noticed.

Immigration has been part of British culture for millennia. If people do want to travel to other countries and exploit their resources, they probably got the idea from the British Empire. And the most iconic British hymn of all is arguably Jerusalem, a heartfelt celebration of the possibility that a middle-eastern man may have visited the country, and a fervent hope that he does so again and builds a massive home here.

So yeah, immigration isn’t at all British.


I’ve heard some claim that immigration is against our way of life. I don’t really know what that means, really. Saying that, life as we know it wouldn’t exist without immigration. Not just due to the importance of cultural diversity; on a literal, ancient bio-molecular level. It is believed the first cells formed due to endosymbiosis, where a primitive cell incorporated other, smaller cells to the mutual benefit of both. E.g. a larger cell engulfed a smaller, different cell which eventually became mitochondria.

Forget our African origins, imagine how bigots will feel when told that every human is made up of billions of examples of immigrant communities. Should cause a nose bleed, at the very least.


Even the most hard-line xenophobe can’t deny one use for immigrants; they make great scapegoats. The scapegoating of vulnerable groups by the larger group or culture during times of economic hardship (e.g. the present) is a well-studied phenomenon. And it’s not limited to frustrated rants either. Studies revealed that there was a correlation between cotton harvests and frequency of lynching in southern USA states in the late 19th/early 20th century. Consider this if anyone invokes “the good old days” when complaining about immigrants.

When people are experiencing hardships due to factors beyond their control (e.g. the weather, disease, a corrupt economic system screwing over whole countries etc) it is inevitable that they will find something or someone to bear the brunt of their impotent frustrations. It’s a darker element of human nature that needs to find someone weaker to victimise. And as has been discussed before, people have worrying tendencies to find reasons to blame victims for their own suffering.

Sure, there are undoubtedly immigrants who are exploiting the system or behaving generally badly, but that’s not behaviour exclusive to immigrants. Far from it. All the despicable efforts to play up to or enhance this anti-immigrant bias people are feeling are worryingly short-sighted. If we do stop all immigration and find all the problems we’d blamed on them haven’t gone away but have in fact gotten worse, it’s a question of who we blame next.

For further examples of irrational anti-immigrant viewpoints, you may want to keep an eye on the comments below. For articles like this, they tend to be as persistent as mould on a shower curtain, albeit less pleasant and more ill-informed

Dean Burnett wrote this purely to wind up the Daily Express and other immigrant-bashing organisations. He is, unfortunately, on Twitter, @garwboy

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