Welcome to the Swarthmore Migration Project web site!
How does Europe understand and deal with its immigrants, particularly those from the Middle East? A November 29th New York Times article sheds light on this question, detailing a recent, controversial vote by the Swiss on a proposal to ban the construction of new minarets in their country. According to the right-wing Swiss politicians backing the proposal, the building of minarets signifies an Islamization of their country, suggesting the growth of Islam as a salient political force. Contrast the building of minarets, the recreation of a cultural artifact to assist in the coalescence of geographically-displaced communities, with that of Islamic neo-fundamentalism—i.e., Al Qaeda, etc.—a real threat. These latter, according to theorist Olivier Roy, on the other hand, are unconcerned with such domestic affairs. The actions of these Swiss politicians, beyond intolerant, is myopic. Islamic fundamentalists do not seek to cement their relationships to their adopted homelands by grounding their religious practices in mosques and minarets; rather, their behavior reflects a “deterritorialisation of Islam,” in which their network spreads beyond, and without reference to the nation-state. The misguided parochialism of the conservative Swiss politicians is surely the wrong way to deal with Muslim immigrants. If the Swiss allow people to cross their national borders, then they must be willing to permit the concomitant entry of culture (religion), whether it wholly aligns with theirs or not. Tolerance is a two-way street and while Islam represents many things to people—some good, some bad—, banning minarets is more discriminatory than secularist.
La Opinión reports that France is deporting French-born children of undocumented immigrants (in Spanish). This is a legal maneuver because, unlike in the United States, children born in France to foreign nationals are not given French citizenship automatically. Children who are born to foreign nationals in France and who live in France until the age of majority may apply for French citizenship. A 2005 presidential decree ordered the deportation of the children of undocumented immigrants and such deportations have been happening since then. These deportations have instilled fear in many families across the country.
In a recent posting on Schott’s Vocab, Ben Schott of the New York Times describes the phenomenon of “reverse remittances,” in which, according to one bank in Chiapas, Mexican immigrants to the U.S., beset by unemployment, are receiving more money from their families in Mexico than they are sending home. Although the figures for these reverse remittances, likely attributable to the current economic downturn, are small in comparison to remittance totals, this shift in financial flows highlights an interesting dimension of the relationship between developed and developing countries and the tension between holding ties to one’s homeland while establishing new roots. A more in-depth discussion of the subject of reverse remittances can be found in an old post at the World Bank’s “People Move” blog.
Betty Bastidas of San Francisco local news web site Mission Local reports that restaurants catering to Hispanic immigrants are floundering as their traditional customer base can no longer afford to eat out as often. The economic downturn has hit immigrant laborers hard; the unemployment rate for immigrants is significantly higher than the national average, as the Los Angeles Times reported in April. In order to make it through the recession, restaurant owners are trying to attract more non-Hispanic customers. They are translating their menus to English, relying on web sites like Yelp for word-of-mouth advertisement, and posting prominent English-language signs for special deals on dishes popular with “anglos.”
Other recent migration features:
- The Los Angeles Times reports that drug traffickers are increasingly using points on the US-Mexico border that are popular crossing points for undocumented migrants, making the journey even more difficult and dangerous.
- Canada’s Globe and Mail newspaper features one of the first Bhutanese refugee families to arrive in Canada. Over the next five years, the Canadian government seeks to resettle 900 Nepali-speaking refugees, who had been pushed out by the Bhutanese government into camps in Nepal, in southern British Columbia.
- Spanish newspaper El País reports that asylum applications in Argentina have risen by 142% between 2006 and 2008, mostly due to an increase in the number of asylum-seekers from African countries arriving in the country (article in Spanish). Senegalese are the largest group of asylum-seekers in Argentina, followed by Colombians. Many asylum-seekers have also arrived from Sierra Leone, Nigeria, and the Ivory Coast. According to the article, some African asylum-seekers plan to transit through Argentina to third countries.
The LA Times featured my hometown of El Monte, California in an article today about how the economic downturn is leading to a reversal of small fortunes and an upswing in gang violence.
Asian-American magazine Hyphen’s blog asked readers to blog about their own immigration stories or the stories of their parents. 17 bloggers responded with 300-word stories about how transnational migration and culture shock affect family relationships and personal identities.