The Mountain State’s TRUSTED news source.

Click here to stay informed and subscribe to The Charleston Gazette-Mail.

Click #isupportlocal for more information on supporting our local journalists.


Learn more about HD Media

Didn’t all our American forefathers migrate from somewhere at some time? Even American Indians migrated from Asia, and all but the first were looked down upon by their successors.

So what? Solutions for today may be found in our history of yesterday.

In Aspen, Colorado, no matter how much money one has, there’s a distinct “close the door behind me” mentality. “Don’t let anyone else move here after me.” Not only is this true in swanky resort areas, but the sentiment pertains to migrants of all types in most places.

The World Economic Forum counts the United States as the primary destination, by far, for the number of migrants, although not as a percentage of our population. The United Arab Emirates is tops there.

Mexico doesn’t have the most migrants leaving, either. India tops them by nearly 50%.

However, it all follows a familiar pattern.

The Irish fled to America because of the potato famine. The richer English had, for years, purchased Irish higher-quality foods, leaving the Irish to survive on basics, like potatoes. So, when the potato blight hit, starvation was rampant, and the Irish fled to America.

Two hundred years earlier, some came here as indentured servants to work on Southern plantations. Others were even “barbadoed” or kidnapped and forced to work as slaves, as were African Americans.

Others settled in Boston, Chicago and New York. There, they weren’t welcome. They could only work doing what others didn’t want to do. “No Irish Need Apply” was a common storefront sign. And that’s why many Irish ended up in the police, fire departments and other public-service jobs others didn’t want.

Eventually, assimilation happened. Not because America accepted the Irish, rather because a new minority appeared — the Italians. They replaced the Irish as the discriminated minority. In fact, they were discriminated against by many Irish.

Then the cycle repeats.

All migration is influenced by three factors. “Push” factors are ones that cause people to leave their homes. “Pull” factors are ones that attract people to a new location. And “obstacles” are the things they must overcome to arrive at their new location.

While we long-term Americans perceive that migration stems from America’s desirability, or “pull” factors, that’s not the real story. The “push” factors causing foreigners to leave their homeland are much stronger.

Like what? The most-cited “push” factor has been to avoid conflict or flee combat zones. And it has been so for centuries. So is avoiding persecution based on race, religion, nationality or membership in a social group or political movement. Next are environmental factors, such as crop failures, starvation or other natural causes — floods, fires and famines, like the potato blight that afflicted the Irish.

America has many “pull” factors, of course. That includes having a higher living standard, being a more tolerant place (political, sexual orientation, race), better higher education opportunities, love, family, health care and more. All these factors affect a Honduran’s decision to breach our southern border, just as they affect a West Virginian’s decision to move to North Carolina or Florida or, previously, to Ohio or Michigan in the 1950s.

While it’s true that we have little in the way of armed conflict pushing us from our homes, it’s also true that we West Virginians move to seek a better living, better housing or to escape poverty.

All migration everywhere is influenced by these factors.

Therefore, the factors must be considered in solving West Virginia’s out-migration crisis, or the migration problems at our southern border. We must make West Virginia a more desirable location, not by starving ourselves below our ability to sustain desirability. That’s foolish.

Better to work to make West Virginia more desirable, and that takes money.

It’s also foolish to ignore that many people migrate out of fear, not greed. To solve that takes money, as well. Just like it takes money to maintain a house.

Being fiscally conservative is about spending just as much as it is about not spending.

Tom Crouser is a business consultant living in Mink Shoals. Reach him at

tom@crouser.com and follow @TomCrouser on Twitter. Also connect via Facebook and LinkedIn.

Recommended for you