The Park Place Economist


Immigration often come with hopes for a better life, mostly in terms of one’s economic situation. While it’s intuitive to assume the economic opportunism hurts the local labor market and thus rightly triggers local hostility, this essay argues otherwise. In a political sense, immigration is a conservative strategy, a passive choice, because the person is not intended to subvert the existent social structure to better his life. However, on a sociological level, immigration is actually avant-garde, in that life after immigration is highly uncertain. Therefore it is adventurous, risk-taking, and in a sense, progressive and radical. On the one hand, the progressive nature of immigration necessitates active and innovative approaches to carve out their new life, which could challenge the existing social and political structure and order. On the other hand, the passive nature of immigration determines that their avant-garde spirit could only go so far before being accommodated within the institutional structure of destination, in which they then negotiate their identity along with their social, economic, and political position with their local counterparts. It is this re-negotiation process that could spawn hostility towards immigrants. With several empirical researches providing counter- intuitive evidence, this essay argues that it is the perceived economic loss of local labor from re-negotiation in the labor market, particularly during the economic downturn, which encourage hostility towards immigrants. More importantly, on the political level, the re-negotiation of one’s identity out of growing leverage on an economic and political level generates the xenophobic rhetoric of some politicians, who channel hostile sentiment towards immigrants either because of perceived threats or solely for an electoral advantage in a xenophobic community.