The number of migrants has increased over the past ten years, from about 150 million people in 2000 to 214 million people today. However, they only represent a small part of the world’s population: barely 3 %. In spite of this relatively low proportion, migration is still a hotly debated political topic in the West.
Some people see it as a threat, especially if is not monitored. For others, the influx of migrants helps increase low populations in Northern countries. Some others believe that migrants are vital to Southern countries: in 2010, they repatriated 325 billion to their home countries. This is more than double the amount allocated for official development assistance.
In the United States, the country in the world with the most migrants (about 42 million on its territories), immigration is the main cause of population growth. In the 1970s, the issue became the subject of an environmental debate which was quite surprising from a French perspective.
The argument was that when a South American migrant arrives in the USA, he adopts the American way of life and his ecological footprint increases about tenfold. He will therefore create more environmental problems. Some environmentalists who were members of the Sierra club, the largest American environmental organisation adopted xenophobic positions and initiated a debate which resulted in their dismissal.
Immigration is now part of the American environmental scene in another way as some people are worried about the effects of the border wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. It is changing environments like the Tijuana estuary and stopping terrestrial species from 11 ecosystems like Texas turtles, mountain lions, deer and jaguars from migrating. Allowing them to move between the two countries would mean giving them the right to do something humans can’t.