Monday, May 16, 2011

My cable guy Tony

Country of origin: Sweden

He has been here in the United States for 12 years. He came to America to explore someplace new and ended up getting his degree here (a Bachelors in telecommunications in San Francisco). While in San Francisco he met his wife (who is an American). He and his wife eventually want to go back to Sweden.

He and I talked about attitudes towards immigrants (he was curious about my blog when I mentioned it). Apparently there has been a huge recent influx of immigrants into Sweden, with a corresponding backlash from the native Swedish people. While the situation in Sweden is significantly different from the US (with "Nearly a quarter of Sweden’s population is now foreign born or has a foreign-born parent."), there are many lessons that can be learned from examining what Sweden is currently going through that I think we as a country would find helpful to examine. For example:

Prof. Jan Ekberg, an economist at Linnaeus University, questions the policies that allowed so many refugees to settle far from jobs. “They are depending on the public sector now as never before,” he said. “That was a policy mistake.”

The rest of the above article is insightful and well worth reading. Also of interest along these lines is an article about Hanif Bali, who is an Iranian refugee elected to the Swedish parliament.

In conclusion, I'd like to thank my cable guy for letting me grill him while he installed my new Internet connection (he did a great job btw) and include this little snippet about previous Swedish immigration to the United States:

During the Swedish emigration to the United States in the 19th and early 20th centuries, about 1.3 million Swedes left Sweden for the United States of America. While the land of the U.S. frontier was a magnet for poor all over Europe, some factors especially encouraged Swedish emigration. There was widespread resentment against the religious repression practiced by the Swedish Lutheran State Church and the social conservatism and class snobbery of the Swedish monarchy. Population growth and crop failures made conditions in the Swedish countryside increasingly bleak. By contrast, reports from early Swedish emigrants painted the American Midwest as an earthly paradise, and praised American religious and political freedom and undreamed-of opportunities.


Immigration rose again at the turn of the 20th century, reaching a new peak of about 35,000 Swedes in 1903. Figures remained high until World War I, alarming both conservative Swedes, who saw emigration as a challenge to national solidarity, and liberals, who feared the disappearance of the labor force necessary for economic development. One-fifth of all Swedes had made the United States their home, and a broad national consensus mandated that a Parliamentary Emigration Commission study the problem in 1907. Approaching the task with what Barton calls "characteristic Swedish thoroughness", the Commission published its findings and proposals in 21 large volumes. The Commission rejected conservative proposals for legal restrictions on emigration and in the end supported the liberal line of "bringing the best sides of America to Sweden" through social and economic reform. Topping the list of urgent reforms were universal male suffrage, better housing, and general economic development. The Commission especially hoped that broader popular education would counteract "class and caste differences."

To read the rest of the fascinating history of Swedes immigrating to the United States, see the corresponding article on Wikipedia.


  1. Very cool entry... of course I have a massive positive bias towards Swedish immigrants.

  2. Oh holy hell, I should interview your husband! :-)

  3. You know I'm from another country too, right? ;-)

  4. " While the situation in Sweden is significantly different from the US (with "Nearly a quarter of Sweden’s population is now foreign born or has a foreign-born parent."),"

    For those of us in Cascadia who are native born (not sure what it is about our region that attracts immigrants) that number is more like 80%.

    But then again, I know many Cascadia Separatists in both the United States and Canada who openly resent being taxed by countries whose capitols are seen as being far away and disconnected from the needs of the people. In Oregon the governor recently came under fire for having a girlfriend whose primary business was in New York City.


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