Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Immigration from Central America to US;

                                                                           ~ The Rape of the Earth
                                                                                                                    (excluding Mexico, Belize, & Antilles) 
"  If I ever raped the earth for my own profit
or dispossessed its rightful owners,
Then curse it with thistles instead of wheat,
curse it with weeds instead of barley  "
                                                                    Job 31   (The Message)

       Global migration of the contemporary world is not just a phenomenon subject to demographic studies but an interesting field of study in culture and society relations. Migration Systems Theory studies the cause and effects of migrations of international borders contemplating both, macrostructure and microstructure factors through comparative research in prior political links between the countries involved. Immigration from the Latin American countries is generally seen just as a consequence of unequal distribution of capital, or as an effect of inadequate government administration for the part of these developing countries, when too often migration is, inadvertently, a direct consequence of prior political actions between the groups involved. I hope to enlighten the inequality and social discrimination that immigrants from these regions experience in the U.S. due to both, a lethargic immigration policy system reform, and inadequate governmental programs of inclusion; when data shows, ironically, that the Hispanic community is actually the largest minority group contributor to the U.S. economy.
          My personal contribution of this study is to make obvious the macrostructures at play that, in turn, activated the microstructures that favored the considerable immigration waves of peoples from these regions to the United States specifically after the Cold War, and to suggest why they should be socially recognized as part of the citizenry pool of the United States of the 21st century. 

     Through migration theories is possible to address the EEUU/Latin American relations after WWII and events that caused immigration from these regions to the U.S., and through tracking the settlement patterns is also possible to determine the social and cultural networks put in effect to later draw conclusions that may enlighten the actual social condition of these groups in the hosting country.

          The passing of the Immigration Act of 1965 is crucial to understand the massive immigration from Latin-American countries to the United States. Peoples of Central American countries emigrated after 1965 taking advantage of this immigration policy, but still this Act is not the sole cause of their move, since if they had been economically stable, they wouldn't have had the need to let dear families and communities behind. If is true that Central regions of the American continent have moved to the United States in the search for better his/her livelihood in insignificant inflows before the 1960s, but historical socio-political forces affecting these individuals to take the individual decision to migrate without hopes of return are the factual issues influencing their move. Migration Systems Theory suggests (Faucett, 1989; Kritz et al., 1992) that any migratory movement can be seen as the result of interacting macrostructures (large-scale institutional factors) and microstructures (informal social networks or Networks Theory).
        However, the single main determinant of migration will most probably be found on the laws and regulations imposed by states and countries in response of economic, social, and political factors. Thus, the interplay of the macrostructural factors activates the microstructural networks of social capital to cause the migration moves. Since Central American countries have no records of significant immigration to the Unites States before the 1970s, in where they began seeking for political asylum from civil wars, macrostructures at play such as the decade-long of Ronald Reagan's administration of justifying military and political interventions as to promote democracy in Latin American countries of El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, Costa Rica, and Nicaragua as a way of advancing underlying economic interests after WWII, triggered, in time, existent microstructures that were inactive until the endorsement of the Immigration Act of 1965 (the Hart-Cellar Act).

(Refugees and peoples seeking for asylum in the US graph)


         According to the American linguist, philosopher, cognitive scientist, logician, historian, political critic, and activist Noam Chomsky in his works about History of US Rule in Latin America, General MacArthur stated ‘The US did not want to control Nicaragua or other nation of the region, but also did not want developments to get out of their control. It wanted Nicaragua to act independently, except when in doing so would affect the US adversely’. Later Chomsky states, ‘Democracy is a good thing in the eyes of the US administration, if and only if it is consistent in its economics interests’ (Chomsky, 8:00). 

  • Context of Departure 

       The increased number and recentness of the Central American natives’ arrivals to the U.S. is only explained by the combination of macrostructural factors involved such as the 1960s and 1970s U.S. political interventions on these countries, coupled with the 1980s and 1990s U.S. immigration reforms. 

           First data of immigration of individuals from these regions to the U.S. has happened in small numbers from Central American countries as agricultural laborers during the WWII. Foreign investments disproportionately targeted production for export, taking advantage of raw material and cheap labor in developing countries, resulted in tremendous internal rural-urban migration, predominantly of low-skilled and female laborers coming from the rural economy to urban industrial centers, which in turn caused underemployment and displacement of the urban work force, which in turn, created an enormous pool of potential emigrants (Zhou, 2001). Arrivals did not become significant until the late 1970s where significant large waves began arriving seeking for asylum as conflict immigrants from devastating civil wars, and natural disasters in their countries.

    Central America was one of the regions hotly contested by militaries and paramilitaries that were directly or indirectly assisted by competing superpowers. After WWII, the US has been fighting leftist groups surging from intermittent, yet democratically elected governments, taking them as political moves toward communism. Observers claim that these policies toward democracy however, have been through military-oriented interventions that were overall harmful to the democratization of the region. In El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, Costa Rica, and Nicaragua, the Reagan administration attempted to prevent the spread of leftism through a policy that combined economic support and direct or indirect military assistance to elected civilian governments. One could argue that granting refugee status and thus assistance would obligate the U.S. government admit questionable policies toward right-wing repressive governments with which it was allied. 
  • Nicaragua, for example, has long experienced U.S. intervention in politics and internal military conflict. After a revolution against then president Zelaya in 1909 in which two Americans were killed, U.S. naval forces patrolled the Caribbean coastal region and stationed marines in the capital city of Managua until 1933 when were withdrawn as a part of Roosevelt’s ‘Good Neighbor’ policy (the ‘Good Neighbor’ policy was the foreign US policy of Roosevelt’s administration toward Latin American countries to protect its commercial interests. Whenever a nation felt its debts were not being repaid in a prompt fashion, its citizen’s business interests were being threatened, or its access to natural resources was being impeded, military intervention or threats were often used to coerce the respective government into compliance). Sandino led a resistance opposition group until 1934 when was assassinated by the U.S. trained National Guard led by Somoza Garcia, who then kept a corrupt and oppressive ‘dynasty’ after becoming president in 1937. His son, Somoza Debayle, governed the country as a dictator in the 1970s, controlling at least half on the country’s wealth. A coalition drove Somoza into exile in 1979 and a leftist group, the Sandinistas, led by Daniel Ortega assumed power allying with the Soviet Union establishing a military state. The U.S. intervened again, supporting contra-revolutionaries in a decade-long proxy to civil war. Nicaraguans who entered the U.S. during that period were perceived as ‘victims of Communism’ and their political asylum or refugee status were approved in a 50% rate. 
  • In Guatemala, the inequitable land distribution was the principal cause of national poverty and the low quality of Guatemalan life (the decline of the Mayan civilization occurred through the dispossession of lands and the use of Mayans for forced labor on cocoa, coffee and indigo plantations), and the concomitant socio-political discontent and insurrection. The U.S. intervened after a distorted interpretation of a series of decisions made by a democratically elected administration. In 1944, a group of junior military forces overthrow the last of a long line of liberal dictators which followed a progressive movement known as October Revolution leading to Arevalo’s election, a school teacher, to presidency. His administration focused on land reforms, education, labor practices, and the electoral system, and was succeeded by another democratic elected president, Jacobo Arbenz Guzman who developed a plan to address the profound disparities in land tenure and the social inequities that accompanied it. In 1950, 70% of Guatemala’s land was in the hands of 2.2 % of landholders, including a number of U.S. corporations, and less than 25% of this land was actually under cultivation (Miyares, 2007). Arbenz Guzman (1950–54) expropriated these unused lands to redistribute to landless peasants. The United Fruit Company, a U.S. corporation with the largest landholdings, took advantage of the fear of Communism that was dominating American policy to convince the governments of U.S. presidents Harry Truman (1945–53) and Dwight Eisenhower (1953–61) that Arbenz was pro-Soviet. Thus, the C.I.A. coordinated an overthrow bringing into power a military junta initiating thus the Guatemalan Civil War (1960-96) that lasted over thirty years. 
  • The armed forces of Guatemala sustaining a total dictatorship lead by graduates of the ‘The School of Americas’, a U.S. military training establishment, have been condemned for its multiple human rights violations and for committing genocide against the indigenous Mayan people (which comprises the 51% of the national population) during the civil war through the exercise of ‘death squads’. During the Guatemalan Civil War, the C.I.A. consistently worked inside of a Guatemalan army unit known as D-2, which was responsible for the deaths of countless thousands of Guatemalan citizens, and operated a network of torture centers. During that time, especially during 1980s, hundreds of Guatemalans sought refuge in neighboring countries and struggled to enter the U.S. hoping to receive asylum as Nicaraguans and Cubans that preceded them. 
  • In El Salvador, chronic poverty, government corruption, and repression led to a 12-year civil war between the Salvadoran National Guard and the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN) rebels, with neither group having clearly defined purposes and support. Salvadoran citizens, including children, could be conscripted into either military force, regardless of whether they supported the group for which they were supposed to be fighting for, or be victims of antipersonnel landmines. As in Guatemala, ‘death squads’ perpetrated extrajudicial killings, and forced disappearances of key leaders and civilians suspected of anti-government activities. Civilians hid children to protect them from conscription, and gave shelter and food to both sides since their focus was on survival. As Guatemalans, hundreds of thousands of Salvadorans crossed the border to Honduran or Mexican refugee camps or sought for asylum in the U.S. One problem against Salvadoran civilians was that the Salvadoran government, in spite of its repressive tactics on human rights abuses, claimed to be anti-Communist, and thus the U.S. supported the government in power. 
  • Honduras was geographically caught in the middle of civil wars; refugees from neighboring countries housed in camps there where, at the same time, American troops were stationing military bases for training camps of U.S.-backed combatants. 

  • Honduras, the so-called ‘banana republic’ was in deed, a servile dictatorship with a polarized wealth economy that exploited in large-scale plantation agriculture, especially the banana cultivation. In practice, the banana republic was, in fact, a country operated as a commercial enterprise for private profit colluding the state favoring monopolies such as the corporations of   United Fruit Company (Chiquita brand),   Standard Fruit Company (Dole brand), and    Cuyamel Fruit Company, whereby the profits derived from private exploitation of public lands is private property, whereas the debts incurred are public responsibility. Such imbalanced economy devaluated the paper money, with the resultant government budget deficit repaid by the native working people. Because of foreign manipulation of multinational corporations, the kleptocratic government is unaccountable to its nation, the country’s private sector-public sector corruption operates the banana republic, thus, the national legislature is for sale, and function solely as a ceremonial government. Gold, silver, lead and zinc are produced at mines owned by foreign   companies there.                      During the early 1980s, the United States established a continuing military presence in Honduras with the purpose of supporting the guerrillas fighting the Nicaraguan government. Honduras was also victim of successive natural disasters such as the Hurricane Mitch in 1998, and a major flood in 2008. 
  • In Panama was where it was conceived ‘The School of the Americas’ in 1946 (now, it is located on the grounds of Fort Benning, Georgia) to train students in psychological warfare. Furthermore, as U.S. had the sovereignty of the Panama Canal since 1904, many Panamanians born in the Canal Zone were granted U.S. citizenship prior to the transfer of sovereignty to the Republic of Panama. 
  • Costa Rica, as Panama, held unique relationship with U.S.

          The era of the Good Neighbor Policy’s fundamental principle of non-intervention ended with the threat of the Cold War in 1945, which resulted in a wave of interferences into Latin American affairs attacking all suspected socialist movements in the hopes of ending the spread of communism, such as the overthrow of socialist president Arbenz in Guatemala and the radical Sandinista government of Nicaragua. A study about the U.S. immigration policies implemented in the Latin American countries during the decade of 1980s serves to explain the effects in the political field of the U.S. interventions, their effects on the economy and society at large that caused the contemporary immigration wages of Latin-Americans to the U.S. During the almost a decade of the Ronald Reagan’s administration comprised in 1981 to 1989, the U.S. have claimed to take the unprecedented interventions in Latin-America to promote democracy as a way of advancing underlying economic interests. 

  • Upon Arrival 

        Upon entering to the U.S., the half million of refugees and people seeking for asylum pool of both Salvadorians and Guatemalans were considered undocumented immigrants after 98% were denied asylum, while Nicaraguans, considered ‘victims of Communism’, experienced only 50% of denial rate. Undocumented US immigrants from Mexico alone account for 54% of the total of Hispanics, eight times the number from El Salvador, the second largest source. This apparent discrimination based on national origins led to the right of second hearing in 1991 which lead to the creation of a temporary program called ABC (after the court case name). Under ABC Salvadoran and Guatemalan were granted annually renewable work permits and SS# while waiting for years before the cases were processed, and eventually anyone who applied for asylum under ABC received full permission to work, therefore becoming quasi-documented regardless if they experienced persecution during the civil wars or not. The Immigration Act of 1990 created a quasi-documented status called TPS (Temporary Protected Status), that is, protection for deportation for 18months, which, as the A.B.C., was extended beyond multiple deadlines.

       Receiving political asylum requires proof of a well-founded fear of persecution upon returning to their homelands, however, since they were escaping the ‘death squads’, or from the ruling forced conscription of the 1980s, meeting the recorded proofs in the 1990s of such experiences far beyond the official cessation of hostilities became a challenge. Many left families behind assuming that they would receive asylum and would be able to reunite their families, but after years of the cessation of hostilities, returning to their home countries to visit their families typically negates the claim that they have a well-founded fear of persecution if repatriated.
          The 1997 Nicaraguan Adjustment and Central American Relief Act (N.A.C.A.R.A.), originally entitled ‘The Victims of Communism Act’, granted amnesty to Nicaraguans and Cubans extending the presumption for persecution, thus qualify them for asylum and residency. Foreign-born Central American U.S. residents still struggle to be recognized as political asylum seekers, such as it is defined by the United Nations and Immigration Act of 1990.
          Hondurans were extended TPS in 1998, but most recently, those who entered as undocumented migrants and could not be repatriated as a result of devastation caused by Hurricane Mitch, could also apply for TPS, which deadline has also been extended numerous times. 

  • Settlement Patterns and Identity 

            A number of migration theories may justify the origins of contemporary Latin-Americans to immigrate to the United States in the socio-economical aspect. Migration Systems Theory explains not only the macrostucural forces propelling the individuals to migrate, but the microstructural networks that gave to the actual migration, shape. Cultural assimilation patterns of Central American immigrants in the U.S. offer also, a developed explanation in settlement. The socio-political factors grating the ‘permanent temporariness’ status of Central American communities and the consequent ‘lost in transnational limbo’ status during the past two decades, helps to explain the slow social move they experience. The US political and military actions on the  Central American countries were based on distorted interpretations of what it seemed to be communist implementations advancing on political ground, and fears of consequent socialist-like state expropriation over American economic interests in the region, way after the Cold War ended.

     Affected civilians of the time, terrorized about being recruited by the country’s limited rebellion's defense caused an overwhelming wave of immigration in 1970s and 1980s on, paradoxically, the American States. This seemingly incongruous civilian move towards seeking US political asylum is largely caused by both, an immediate need of income, and a lack of information due to the generally low education of the region, since approximately three-fourths of the Central Americans have less than a high-school education. Evidence of the statistical data, annals of immigration studies, the Bureau of Citizenship and immigration Services office archives, journals, and scholarly essays state that, combatants conscripting new ‘recruits’ on the Central American region did not discriminate by gender; the civil wars made mothers and female college students politically active, thus, at risk of persecution and disappearances. The passage of Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 (IRCA)  made obtaining a job much more difficult task, since applicants then needed to provide legal evidence of their right to work in the U.S. The battle for status has defined the geography of settlement and the dynamics of transnational circulation. 
The Salvadoran and Guatemalan communities, while legally unable to physically circulate, have developed a unique transnationalism; truncated in that their legal status inhibits actual transmigrant circulation, economies of El Salvador and Guatemala, have become dependent of their remittances and governments have joined the battle for their immigrant’s legal status. Among Central Americans, legal status affects social status and identity. Central American identities are related to one’s legal status; these statuses include naturalized or native-born citizen, permanent resident, ABC or TPS, and undocumented migrant.
          Panamanians have the largest proportion of native-born; many of those born in the Canal Zone, which would be interpreted as U.S. citizens. Both Panamanians and Costa Ricans are the most likely to be naturalized as U.S. citizens due to the special relationships that held with U.S.
        The largest Central American population settlements are concentrated in Los Angeles and Houston along with Mexican communities. 
          Following the micro-structural networks that sustain the Migrations Systems Theory, we found that EEUU/Latin American relations grew significantly in the cultural field during the last half of the 20th Century, fact that facilitated later immigration. In a number of respects, Latin Americans have some familiarity with American culture before they arrived to the US. The ‘Good Neighbor Policy’ not only resulted in the removal of U.S. Marines from Nicaragua in 1934, but in a huge cultural influence in Latin America.
         The policy's cultural impact included the initiation of the radio program ‘Viva America’, the 1942 Walt Disney film ‘Saludos Amigos’, and the implementation of the Latin American figure in all Hollywood films, most notably, that of Carmen Miranda. At first her image was meant to entertain the unemployed ex-combatants returning home from the recent US Asian wars, and to raise spirits spread by a depressed American economy with the exuberant tropical imagery of Central America. She was encouraged by the United States government as part of Roosevelt’s Good Neighbor policy, designed to strengthen links with Latin America; it was believed that in delivering content like hers, the policy would be better received by the American public. 

        Her Hollywood image, although heavily criticized for giving in to American commercialism and projecting a false image of Latin American cultures, was one of a generic Latinness that blurred the distinctions between Brazil, Portugal, Argentina, and Mexico as well as between samba, tango and habanera. However, by the end of World War II, Latin America was, according to one historian, the region of the world most supportive of American foreign policy.

            During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the United States periodically intervened militarily in Latin American nations to protect its interests, particularly the commercial interests of the American business community. Identifying and analyzing the major foreign policies implemented by the 
Reagan administration in the 1980s and its pursuits in the Central Latin American region in the name of democratization would aid to evaluate whether the United States helped or harmed the return of democratization to the region, and if U.S. politics were based on overall inadequate conception of political participation towards Latin America or not.

         As historically the immigrant is generally seen as a threat to national identity, inadequate governmental programs of inclusion foster ground for racial discrimination, social neglect, negation of civil and human rights, emergence of the black market and/or parallel economy, support for indentured servitude, social alienation, and violence, when too often migration is, inadvertently, a direct consequence of prior political actions between the groups involved.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Global Migration:

                                                     ~  Migration Theories Comparison 

           International migration experiences cannot be adequately explained by a single theory, but by theories operating simultaneously at different geographical scales, for example, large structural forces (macrostructures) may directly impact individual decisions to migrate (microstructures). Migration theories can be categorized in two distinct approaches: The Neo-Classical Theory and the New Economics of Migration which both are based on micro-level, cost-benefit, and human agency decision making models of potential immigrants who engage in migration voluntarily for self-betterment. In the other hand, labor migrants within Dual Labor Market Theory and World Systems Theory are conceived as involuntary casualties of larger-scale structural forces operating at the national and global levels (Arriess & Miyares 2007). 

Nearly 190 million people, about 3% of the world's population, lived outside their country of birth in 2005. The NY Times presents a look at the flow of people around the world.

      The Neo-Classical Theory and its derivates such as Human Capital Theory are both based on economics. They state that the migration of workers across international boundaries is determined by differential employment opportunities and wages rates between the origin and destination countries. They recognize as well, that governments in both countries are able to control migration by regulating labor markets, income taxes or minimum wages. Peoples tend to move from countries where wages are low or labor is scare, to countries where labor is plentiful and wages are higher in comparison. People migrate if they believe that they can maximize their income by moving to another place (Todaro, 1976; Borjas, 1990). Constraining factors, such as government restrictions on migration, are seen as market distortions. Due to the focus on individual decisions, and the neglect of historical factors make this solely theory incomplete to justify migrations. If it is true that individuals move in the search for better his/her livelihood, is necessary to study the historical forces affecting these individual decisions that made them to migrate.

           The New Economics of Migration is based on economic assumptions as well, but differs from the Neo-Classical Theory in that the decision to migrate is made by a larger social unit such as a family group or households that are a single
economic unit. The group decision of someone to migrate is for the purpose to enhance that generation’s income and survival chances. Economic policies that discriminate against a particular slice of population in the origin country promote emigration (Arriess & Miyares 2007). Research shows that migration decision making is often a family and community process. Capital accumulated through migrant remittances can be used to improve earning opportunities at home. From this follows that governments may encourage migration and remittances to assist economic development (Castles, 2009). Although, this theory may fit the experiences of exiled populations that have been the result of the effort of a group, most later built significant cultural networks with hometown associations to help to improve the lives of those left behind. Thus, again, migration theories that focus exclusively on the economic factor do not offer satisfactory explanation about the historical forces causing the migration decision making of a group, but I see rather this theory as a consequence of chronological factors. 

       By contrast, the Dual Market Theory argues that international migration originates from the labor needs of modern industrial societies, rather than in the decision making of a poor community. This is, international migration is influenced by the structural labor needs of a national economy, rather than on wage differences across space. Because advanced economies are characterized by segmented labor markets (divided into capital-intensive and high-paying vs. labor-intensive and low-paying), and native populations often find such low-wage and status work, monotonous, and poorly paid works unattractive, immigrants meet this labor demand. Since the late 1960s low-skilled clothing apparel and microelectronic industries have recruited female immigrants from Latin-America and Asia to fill vacant occupations rejected by natives. 

           More complex, Historical-Structures Theories are based on Marxist political economy and the World Systems Theory. Historical-Structures Theory asserts that as capitalism spread across the globe, considers international migration as a byproduct of this force. While the flow of capital and goods spread from the global core to the periphery, the international flow of labor moved from the periphery to the core. For example, foreign investments which manufacture goods that compete with domestically produced goods displaced domestic workers, some of whom migrate overseas (Arriess & Miyares 2007). 

       Even broader interdisciplinary approaches to explain migration involve the inclusion of colonialism and linkages that persist during the post-colonial period to promote migration; labor surpluses in the Third World were a legacy of colonialism and Western military intervention which had brought about underdevelopment and dependency of foreign capital. Migration was as important as military hegemony and control of world trade and investments in keeping the Third World dependent on the First (Castles, 2009). Nevertheless, the creation of refugee streams through indirect military intervention in Central American countries of Guatemala and El Salvador, for example, was in part a result of president Reagan's administration, which supported brutal and dictatorial regimes in those countries during the late 1980s (Arriess & Miyares, 2007). But Historical-Structures Theory seeks answers on the capital move and paid inadequate attention to the motivations and actions of the individuals and groups involved. 

         Lastly, Migration Systems Theory, on the contrary, notes that the migratory process develops its own social networks, dynamics, and settlement thus becoming a self-sustaining process even if its own original causes disappears. This theory suggests that migratory movements generally arise from the existence of prior links between sending and receiving countries based on, for example, colonization, political influence, trade, investment, or cultural ties (Faucett, 1989; Kritz et al., 1992). According to this theory, any migratory movement can be seen as the result of interacting macrostructures (large-scale institutional factors) and microstructures (informal social networks or Networks Theory). However, the single main determinant of migration is still probably the laws and regulations imposed by states and countries in response of economic, social, and political factors. 

       Thus, the interplay of the macrostructural factors activates microstructural networks of social capital to cause the migration moves.

Cited Notes:
  • · Miyares, Ines M. Central Americans: Legal Status and Settledness. Contemporary Ethnic Geographies in America. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc. USA 2007. Print. 
  • · Price, Marie. Contemporary Ethnic Andean South Americans and Cultural Networks. Geographies in America. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc. USA 2007. Print. 
  • · Carothers, Thom. In the Name of Democracy: U.S. Policy Toward Latin America in the Reagan Years. University of California Press. LA. 1991. Online. Fri 6th, 2012. 
  • · Castles, Stephen & Miller, Mark. The Age of Migration: International Population Movements in the Modern World. 2009. 
  • · Miyares, Ines & Airriess, Christopher. Exploring Contemporary Ethnic Geographies. Contemporary Ethnic Geographies in America. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc. USA 2007. Print.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Immigration Waves to the United States:

Then and Now 
          Contemporary immigration to the United States is often referred to as ‘post 1965’ immigration because immigration from the Americas and Asia surged after the passage of the 1965 amendments to the Immigration and Nationality Act (the Hart-Cellar Act) which took effect in 1968 which had an humanitarian goal of reunifying families, and an economic goal of bringing in needed labor. 
It also abolished the national-quotas system that restricted immigration from Southern and Eastern Europe, lifted the ban on immigrants from Asia, and established the seven preference categories. The abolition of national quotas was intended to spur immigration from countries in Eastern and Southern Europe in force until that year and, to a lesser extent, from Asian countries. Disproportionately new arrivals from the Americas (except Canada) and Asia was facilitated, but not caused, by the 1965 shift in immigration policies. 

      Contemporary immigration to the United States from the 1960s to 1990s period differs from the time where the waves of immigration began from the late 18th thru early 19th centuries in that the first immigration was integrated by 90% European, East European, and Middle East exiled people, meanwhile the second, is complexly composed by 90% of immigrants from Latin American countries who became banned by successive restrictive laws aimed to refugees or people seeking for asylum, and by formerly non-immigrants turned to immigrants from Asian countries. 

          These two waves are similar in numbers; the scale of contemporary immigration almost matches that during the first quarter of the century between 1901 and 1925. 

From a historical point of view, contemporary immigration differs in five different ways: 
· To start with, contemporary immigration waves have been increasing steadily from 1971 to 1995 causing a more modest overall impact on the U.S. population than in the past, where the wages occurred spread it out at intervals. Also, such impact is disproportionately localized in areas of high immigration. 

· Second, the rate of contemporary emigration is lower than in the past; it estimates than for every 100 immigrants who arrived around 1901, 36 returned to their homelands, meanwhile for every 100 immigrants arrived around 1971, less than 25 returned. This rate indicates that contemporary immigrants are more likely to stay in the U.S. permanently than its counterparts. 

· Third, unlike immigration then, today’s immigration is composed by a much larger number of undocumented immigrants. Immigration to the U.S. was open until legal restrictions was imposed to immigrants from Asia in the Nationality Act of 1924 where it was established the national-origins quota system. Thus, the number of undocumented immigrants was not an issue. 
       Today, various immigration laws are in place to regulate front-door entrants. However, historical patterns of labor reliance on Mexican migration have facilitated undocumented immigration through back-door channels. Undocumented immigration net trends have fluctuated since the 1980s; on the one hand IRCA (Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986) made legal former illegal immigrants and prevented employers from hiring undocumented immigrants through the Mexican borders, but soon employers and employees learnt to circumvent the new restrictions. 
During 1994 to 1996, 60% of undocumented immigrants entered across land borders. While Migration networks are settled by family, kinship, and friendship ties, they facilitate the international migration because they lower the costs and risks of movements, and increase the expected returns on such movement. These micro-structural ties of social networks have established legitimate institutions that assist potential migrants by underground organizations. U.S. immigration policy has been instrumental in sustaining and expanding family migration networks, and in establishing employment networks for unskilled-labor migration (as for the Bracero Program aimed at assisting the labor shortage of U.S. agriculture until 1964 where black market network from Mexico became institutionalized) and, to a lesser extent, to skilled-labor migration. 

· Fourth, compared to immigration then, today’s inflows are made up of a higher proportion of refugees and those seeking for asylum; the subsequent 50 years after WWII, more than 3million refugees and people seeking for asylum from war-torn countries in Europe were granted lawful permanent-resident status. 

        Macro-structural factors facilitating human movements beyond the control of U.S. immigration policy is the Global Refugee Movement phenomenon started immediately after WWII. Many refugees were pushed out of their homelands as a result of revolutions, civil wars, or U.S. political, military and economic involvements in originating countries. Contemporary refugees are more numerous from Caribbean, Central America, Southeast Asia and the former Soviet Union. Thus implies a much larger base for later immigration through family reunification that profits from the black market. 

· Lastly, the presence of the non-immigrant arrivals to the U.S. temporary for short visits, business, pleasure, traders, investors, students and temporary workers or trainees along with their immediate relatives, each year also bears a pool of potential immigrants both, legal and illegal that may overstay their visas, and wait here to have their status adjusted. About 40% of the undocumented immigrant population was ‘nonimmigrant overstays.’ 
  The new immigrant also differs in their diverse socioeconomic backgrounds there are significant differences in demographic characteristics, levels of education, occupation, and income by national origins. Compared to the first immigrants where the poor, uneducated and unskilled were the ones who travelled overseas. Globalization of the U.S. economy since 1960s has forged ideological ties among the United States and many developing countries in Latin America. Direct U.S. capital investments that have taken advantage of raw material and cheap labor have transformed those countries’ economic and occupational structures. On the other hand, economic development following the American model, combined with easy access to information and migration networks has in turn created pressure for emigration, has stimulated consumerism and consumption and raised expectation regarding living standards. 

        Spatially, the turn-of–the century immigrants were highly concentrated along the Northeastern seaboard and in the Midwest, and the most preferred urban destinations were New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, St. Louis, and Boston. In contrast, contemporary immigrants are overwhelmingly urban. Today’s newcomers concentrate in New York, Los Angeles, Miami, San Francisco, and Chicago. While the entrance point of the first immigrants were Ellis Island, since 1970s immigration entrance points have been switched to New York, Los Angeles, Miami, and San Francisco. 

     Differences from the turn-of-the-century European immigration and contemporary immigration in the United States is that the latest, has resulted from the interplay of macro- and micro- structural factors operating cross-nationally, rather than unilaterally. The new immigration has transformed America’s major immigrant cities realigning racial and ethnic relations. 

        The most significant impact of immigration on U.S. residents has involved notions of an 'American Identity' and 'American ways'. The arrival of large non-White immigrants has significantly changed the racial composition of the urban population, rendering the Black-White paradigm outdated. Many U.S. born Blacks are confronted with being a U.S. minority competing with foreign-born minorities whose members have come from different backgrounds, many with a majority mentality, and heading to different directions. For the new immigrants, the paths to integration may be segmented because of their diverse socioeconomic backgrounds. It seems clear, however, that assimilation no longer means that everybody eventually succeeds. 

Cited Works
  • Zhou, Min. Contemporary Immigration and the Dynamics of Race and Ethnicity. America Becoming: Racial Trends and Their Consequences Vol 1. National Research council. 2001. 
  • Miyares, Ines M. Central Americans: Legal Status and Settledness. Contemporary Ethnic Geographies in America. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc. USA 2007. Print. 
  • Price, Marie. Contemporary Ethnic Andean South Americans and Cultural Networks. Geographies in America. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc. USA 2007. Print. 
  • Tyner, James. Filipinos: The Invisible Ethnic Community. Geographies in America. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc. USA 2007. Print. 
  • Skop, Emily. Asian Indians and the Construction of Community and Identity. Geographies in America. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc. USA 2007. Print. 
  • Boswell, Thomas and Jones, Terry-Ann. Caribbean Hispanics: Puerto Ricans, Cubans, and Dominicans. Geographies in America. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc. USA 2007. Print. 
  • Arreola, Daniel. Settlement Geographies of Mexican Americans. Geographies in America. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc. USA 2007. Print.


Monday, July 30, 2012

The Great Migration:

                                               ~ Jim Crow Laws          
         I write this note to my readers whom I assume, have some interest in the history of human’s behavior, value the precious life of a human being, and appreciate the motivations of their acts. Also, to who can allow him/herself be taught by our own history, be inspired by it and be courageous and stand out at the face of social injustices to impede of being driven by it.

       As I get deep into history, I find more difficult to live with the disturbance that produces the learning of human’s steps, steps that brought it where it is. To fully understand our present, we have to make a short trip to the past. It is, indeed, a very short trip if you put in perspective how long we have been affecting the nature of the Earth; if you could picture our galaxy’s existence in a time-scale of one year, then, according to my professor of astronomy, early humans born in the beginning of that year’s last month, all human’s history that you can possibly track back would last one week, all modern history (meaning more or less, from Columbus to now) would last one day, then, the experience of a single human would have a life span of just one second 'to be generous with us on the count', he said. This is, all the worries of your life in a single breath. Considering this reality, which we don’t usually consciously live with, and all the harm that humans cause in such a short period of time, I’m afraid of the future. I’m scared of what we are capable to do to one another when moved by hatred.

        The unconstitutional black segregation of the turn of the 20th century is one of the darkest chapters of the US history. It shouldn’t be so proud of its material achievements knowing in what they have built its foundation. Its multinational enterprises of tobacco, rice, citruses, and cotton have been built on 400 years of transatlantic trade of 12 million of made-slave Africans working in the Southern States against their will. But let’s say that the US acted according to the call of the era (since other governments were doing the same). So, when slavery trade was completely abolished after the Civil War of 1865, and former slaves gained ownership of their labor, what was their excuse to reduce ex-slaves as to an inferior caste by social restrictions, other than to maintain their material supremacy over them? I personally don't see anything darker than the fruit of greed.

             US society started working on upholding its arrogance, oftentimes supported by the law, by putting into practice Jim Crow statutes. The 1880 doctrine of 'separate by equal' marked the highest stage of 'white supremacy' by denying to free African-Americans of their full natural rights, and excluding them from society to prevent integration, according to Thomas Jefferson.

    Throughout America the market-oriented society, perpetrator of violating human rights, did unspeakable things to keep control of labor and capital to maintain supremacy over other humans, when finding someone 'trying to act like a white person', or when just being contradicted.

         What is most remarkable of the African-Americans is that after decades of being the subject of all sort of exploitative abuses, at one point, when life got truly unbearable, they gathered enough strength to leave in the search of The Warmth of Other Suns instead of staying to feed themselves with frustration and rage. They couldn’t go back from where they were brought from, not just because they couldn’t afford a transatlantic passage to Africa, but because after several generations of adjusting to the white civilization, and to the disruptive psychological damage that these experiences caused on their natural way of life wrought by the oppressive modern world, there were no routes leading ‘home’. There wasn’t a place that they could call it ‘home’ for them to go.

          So, after emancipation, those workers who were free of debts from their landlords decided to move out the Southern states. In 60 years spam, 6 million black southerners moved to urban areas of the north and west of the United States, this is; the farthest possible from the plantations, to a world unknown to them; a step of faith that allowed them to make a way out of no way.
        They transformed the urban landscape of the American west, Chicago, Detroit, New York and northern Philadelphia, where they were hired in manufacturing and packaging factories, underground railroads, and mines. By ‘walking in the thin line between being a person and acting as a slave’, they discovered and reinvented themselves.

           And this is what I love the most from the darkest events of our history; our capability to decide if we’ll live resented about the mistreatment of life, or if we’ll let ourselves resurge in a new form like the phoenix. They choose the latest.

        The facto segregation of the most industrialized northern cities as Chicago, which were hiring tons of immigrants to work on their industries, produced continuous ghettos of Mexican, Irish, and Italian communities in which African-Americans settled. Many emancipated former slaves moved to New York city. The community formed in Harlem became the nest of a vibrant culture symbolized by the ‘Harlem Renaissance’ between 1920s and 1930s which popularized the 'New Negro' by artists and intellectuals who, re-evaluating the African identity throughout the African continent, and the world, emphasized on the integrity of race and personality.
         The struggle for liberation emerged with the form of black Jazz artists who awakened a self-consciousness linked to a pan-African movement that, at the same time, challenged any attempts to ‘whiten’ jazz, or 'bleachen' their identity, ideas inspired by Frantz Fanon, Richard Wright, and other writers, and intellectuals of the time.

                                                    Nina Simone 'I'm Feeling Good'

        According to Malcolm X ‘Civil rights means you’re asking Uncle Tom to treat you right. Human rights are something you were born with (…) God given rights.’
        This movement inspired for decades segregated Blacks that raised for social justice around the world as the Mizrahi Black Panthers movement in the Israel of the 1970s (Yosef, 2004).

         Then yes, after 1990, when they wanted to go home, they could look South and feel that an important part of them belonged there. ‘Home’, said Dwane Walls, ‘It is the church and the graveyard, where parents and brothers, sisters and babies are buried. It is the debt still owed to the bank or the store or the landlord –a debt that never seems to go away no matter how good the crop.’

           Our past deeds surprise me many times. History contains the meaning of the algebraic sum of our self. We are the result of the built up facts from the past. The end of this story is, certainly, inspiring to me. 
          If I could just let go and forgive the hurts of life like they did, then I’d feel like I learn a valuable lesson.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Lorna's Marriage

&   Liminality of life in Exile

          The Dardenne brothers are not immigrant producers; they are EU citizens born in Belgium who tell the story of an immigrant woman that goes through situations that happen to people like her perhaps more than to those living in material easiness; because of her social situation, she is ready to do things that other people would not, because they have no need to. 

  In Lorna’s Silence the Dardenne brothers sympathize with the reality that EU immigrants may be forced to go through to attain the dreams they attempt to reach, although the Dardenne film directors are not immigrants, Lorna’s Silence represents the cinema of diaspora and exile in many ways. They, as émigrés directors do, operate independently and their film does not neatly fit into generic or typological category of films. Lorna’s Silence is not a diaspora film in the sense of having been produced in exile, but it juggles thematically with central issues of displacement and with life, times and figures that are in exile. 
         Lorna’s Silence narrates the story of the in-vogue subject of the century; immigration as a cinema of despair. 

     Small-time gangsters contract Belgian heroin dependent Claudy (Jérémie Renier) to marry the Albanian immigrant Lorna (Arta Dobroshi) so she can become an EU citizen for then later divorce him, and marry a Russian mobster to become an EU citizen too, for then she can divorce him to finally marry his Albanian long-distance chauffeur boyfriend Sokol (Alban Ukaj) and live forever after in the for-to-buy snack shop. 

      It sounds effortless and a very good all-winners plan so far. Characters have its own good dream for a better life, they diplomatically agreed and coolly planned to use and vend each other for their own benefit and there’s collecting funds out of these playing-with-the-law transactions. 
         Lorna has the modest dream of opening this snack bar but the few obstacles she has will multiply and she’ll never get it in spite of hardening hearts because life wasn’t designed to be lived in a so selfish fashion. 

       At first, Lorna regards Claudy with polite contempt. Although she lives in his place, she treats him as an annoying tenant, setting down clear rules of separation. But she feels more sympathy for Claudy as he tries to kick his addiction when he becomes more a burden to her. She does everything she can to accelerate the divorce proceedings, banging her arms and head against a wall in order to file the case for domestic violence. But her accomplices plan to rush things up by killing Claudy with an overdose (Thom Andersen)
Hard men, indeed. 
      Then gangsters walk in her appartment as if they owned Lorna’s life and her destiny, and going over the deceased’s belongings like vultures on carrion split his personal effects.

     Lorna now in a round table with the gangsters and the Russian listens the instruction for the “meeting settling” arrangements for her next matrimony with arranged witnesses. But now is Lorna the one who became a problem; out of guilt she believes is pregnant of her deceased husband, and at attempting to find out whether the Russian would accept her in this condition or not, he cancels the contract. 
Furious gangsters and boyfriend redirect Lorna’s collected funds back to each other and  send her back automatically to her homeland Albania. Fugitive, she lives lost, insane and isolated in the woods. 
The freedom in Lorna’s story just means being your own boss. They lose their dreams, but Lorna discovers another kind of freedom in the woods outside Liège. 

         According to Naficy on his works on ‘Recurrent Themes in the Middle Eastern Cinema of Diaspora’, diaspora cinema is structurally contradictory because is both; oppositional and assimilionist. Lorna’s Silence is oppositional in its critique of the politics, policies and ideologies of the host societies; Lorna makes matrimony a commerce in order to get her freedom in the arrived land. Lorna deals with the marginalia of the host society to close her business; in this sense the film is assimilionist, if marginal, function as a cultural force within the civil society. 

      The Dardenne brothers, by producing film about exiles, intervene in the larger discourses and debates of their host societies and reinforce the prevailing negative representations of the EU as an elitist society. At the same time, according to Naficy, through this representation they help the community to identify and negotiate for themselves new individual and collective identities, facilitating their move from being ‘exiles’ to become ‘ethnics’. At the same time, by focusing on problems of living and working in the big cities, the film addresses to immigrant tensions and concerns participating in means of self-assertion, self-fashioning and acculturation (Naficy, 1995). 

      Differently to the immigrants to America at the end of the 19th century that came from Europe, where woman, barred from participating in the public sphere, worked at home and kept their families together, caring and nurturing of members creating ethnic linkages and networks with other immigrant populations, Lorna is attached to the petty ruffians that help her business. They rather represent an advanced stage of capitalist development; Lorna and her associates are all business: no small talk, no charm, no colorful lines, no philosophical speculations. There’s work to be done, and they’re doing it as efficiently as possible, with a harsh attention to detail. Even Lorna’s Albanian boyfriend Sokol (Alban Ukaj), a long-distance truck driver, is always preoccupied with some obscure criminal endeavor during their rushed encounters (Thom Andersen).

       Nothing about nurturing and cultivation mirrors Lorna: although her fake husband and heroin addict Claudy begs for affection in many ways and his longings are strengthened as he tries to kick his addiction, Lorna shows incapable to provide nurture, care, nor even sympathy because her chances of obtaining a divorce would be even closer if she became a widow. 

       So, while waiting for the divorce letter, the minute that Lorna gets to her living place she closes every window and lacks herself in the bedroom. Claudy, sick in a never-ending rotation of helpless misery, burning his money-share in drugs, starves for attention and care. Attempting to kick the drug habit becomes a problem when he reaches an edging desperate need. It’s not that he grew affection for her or anything but it’s more that she has what he lacks; a plan, hope, that freshness when she passes by, so healthy and desirable, so alive... and at the same time so selfish, so careless, unsociable and inhuman that at some point you may feel you hate her. She tries to stick to the original business plan and “helping” was not part of the contract (he received €5000 for marry her and will receive the double to divorce her). That will be all. 

       They live in a den where minimal furniture and white washed walls has nothing to say but that its tenants are not building a home there. Theirs is and interior den where they can’t get out. They force to live a miserable life, victims of themselves. All characters will live a life when they reach their dreams; meanwhile they're just wrecked people that wait to get there. These are the signs of homelessness that characterize the lives of exiles that find a way to escape from pressures dreaming with ‘another place’ yet to achieve. 

      Potentially liminal spaces are mobile entities such as buses, tracks or trains that transit between homeland and other destinations in the films of diaspora, as in Lorna’s boyfriend waits to obtain EU citizenship works as a long-distance truck driver and assures to Lorna that will meet her in her homeland after stopping in Milan, when she’s being sent to Albania. These transitional and mobile sites are potentially liminal and highly suggestive of the exile condition. 

     Nothing is referred in the film about the place where Lorna and her associates came from other than they came from Albania, and nothing is referred in the film addressed to an integrative cultural struggle in the host society because the global media has taken care of that ahead of time. Bizarrely enough, the novel immigrant of the 21st century will struggle for assimilation and acculturation way after they have obtained their citizenship and not the way around; that they’re granted citizenship after they become assimilated and integrated to the new society because the acquirement of this social status is the first step in the only path to integration. This is reflected during the first seconds of the film when Lorna interacts with a bank clerk asking for the loan to open the snack bar saying ‘I’ll be Belgian soon, so I can do it’ (1:15). 

      One similitude of these two types of immigrants if nothing is said about their affective relationship with their home country (although negation is anyhow rejection) it is their devotion to the new country; the minor-league hoodlums will do anything to advance their schemes. 

       The immigrants that the Dardenne brothers portrait, are somehow more related to the second wave of immigrants America had around the 1960 which came from Third World and the newly industrialized nations. They had a higher level of education, skills and capital and a desire to neither give-up the ‘old ways’ nor completely embrace the new ones. The only way that Lorna shows that she has not given-up ways from her homeland is when she desires her Albanian boyfriend Sokol; her desire of building a new life in Belgium with him is a desire to extend her Albanian way of life in the new land. And the way Lorna shows that she has not embraced the new ways of life is the ways she connects with her environment; except for the nurse that helps her to declare her self-inflicted bruises to the police, other surrounding people from her workplace, hospital, streets, pharmacy, bank clerk and detectives are unidentified, anonymous and vacant to her life. She is cut-off from her environment that is indifferent to her presence; she only performs. 
      The liminality of exile necessitate a stress on nature and the natural order; In the absence of the native habitat the exiles seek what only nature is capable of providing: wilderness, timelessness, boundlessness, reliability, stability, and universality. Many exiles in cinema consider wilderness to be a sacred space of uncontaminated spirituality and safety: during Lorna’s final escape from her masters, a hint of realism is introduced when she comes upon an abandoned cabin in the forest, as well as a bit of music. This space is contrasted with the profane and insecure spaces of culture and civilization. In the forest, all of a sudden Lorna regain her woman nurturing nature; there she remembers how was to be maternal and to take care of someone, but is late because Claudy is dead and out of guilt she has a psychological pregnancy.
Then there is a profound sense of loss; the dead and the lost dream are symbols of an unattainable life. The wilderness in Lorna’s also represents a space of liberation and reconciliation. 

      In the liminality of diaspora and exile, the boundaries between self and other, female and male, inside and outside are often blurred and must be continually negotiated (Naficy, 1995) . The spatial configuration in Lorna’s Silence is driven by structures of identification and alienation. In the exilic films as Lorna’s the enclosed claustrophobic spaces as her bedroom and place of residence represents a prison expressing anxiety and fear about life in exile. These phobic spaces perceived as representations of an hostile, oppressive social order are often opposed to the spaces of immensity of the wilderness. Strategies to create such spaces in Lorna’s include tight close-ups, closed shot compositions, tight physical spaces, barriers in the mise-en-scene and the shot that impedes vision such as car passing by while she walks on the streets, a net-metal curtain between Lorna and the pharmacist, dialogs inside cars while characters deal large quantity of cash, etc. And a lightning scheme that creates a mood of constriction such as the lightning in her apartment, her rushes through the night and the all-cloudy days during the exteriors daytime locations.

      In Lorna’s Silence, the security that the confinement of her apartment offers her, although violent and degrading far outweigh the external world of the host society, which remains a threatening presence. This is shown in how she looks at strangers in the street throughout the film and the fear she feels at seeing police officers passing by and when addressing to the pharmacist; as if she wouldn’t feel with the full right of being there. 

      Another key of most exilic filmmakers of the accented cinema is that they are multilingual, as Lorna speaks French with society but Albanian with her boyfriend Sokol, who at the same time speaks Italian with his associate for language, serves to shape not only individual identity but also regional and national identities prior to displacement (Naficy, 2001)

      Common elements of exilic films that are found in Lorna’s are keys, that close and open different worlds and represent immigrant’s opportunities to succeed, huge amounts of cash movements that represent unsettling since citizens don’t need to carry so much cash, police, panic to doorbells, the closing of curtains as protection from the external world and isolation in the new land, the nearness to death, the fear to be continually under surveillance, visits to hospitals, close spaces and frequent moving as when after Claudy died Lorna moved quickly to her former flat. 
      According to Deleuze, in the cinema of the “action-image”, “perception is organized in obstacles and distances to be crossed, while action invents the means to cross and surmount them.” In the modern cinema “perceptions and actions cease to be linked together.” A link has been broken, and the character can no longer act effectively. But Lorna is not a neorealist character; her perceptions lead her immediately to actions; there is no dissociation between them. Against the tide of neorealism, the Dardennes insist that action is character.