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Category Archives: Migration Blog

Authors Explore American Immigrant Experience

Immigrants bring many things to the U.S., but their lasting contribution to the country has always been their children. The NPR series “Immigrants’ Children” looks at that legacy, telling the stories of those children and examining the issues they face.

Award-winning authors Edwidge Danticat, Junot Diaz and Samina Ali all came to this country as children — Danticat from Haiti, Diaz from the Dominican Republic, and Ali from India.

As part of NPR’s series on the children of immigrants, these three authors offer perspective on the transformation of immigrants in America as the next generation assimilates.

Edwidge Danticat’s most recent book, Brother, I’m Dying, is a memoir about her uncle’s tragic story of trying to immigrate to this country. Danticat has been in America since she was 12 when she lived with her family in a Haitian neighborhood of New York City. America has often been called a melting pot, but Danticat says that doesn’t mean children of immigrants will necessarily shed their cultural heritage.

Author Junot Diaz was born in the Dominican Republic. His Pulitzer-prize winning book, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, was praised for its vibrant prose and street-smart language, often in the Spanglish that surrounded Diaz growing up. For the Diaz family, the transformation of language was a big part of the immigrant experience.

Samina Ali, author of Madras on Rainy Days, was raised both in India and the U.S like the protagonist in her novel, Layla. Ali was once wedded to a stranger through an arranged marriage, and her parents would take her back to India every year in hopes of strengthening the bonds of her heritage. But she says it’s a struggle to maintain that continuity with her own children.

NPR is a public American radio station and a thriving media organization at the forefront of digital innovation which creates and distributes award-winning news, information, and music programming to a network of 959 independent stations. Through them, NPR programming reaches 26.4 million listeners every week.

The Nobel Case for Immigration

“The Nobel Case for Immigration – Keeping our eyes on the prize when it comes to immigration policy”, an article by Ryan Young and Alex Nowrasteh.

Only 1 in 20 people on earth live in America. But Americans won 4 of 11 Nobel prizes this year. Last year, it was 8 of 9. Many of those American laureates are immigrants. Today, about 1 in 8 Americans are foreign-born, but 1 in 4 American Nobel laureates since 1901 are foreign-born. Immigrants, it seems, are chronic overachievers. America would benefit by letting more in.

A third of Silicon Valley’s scientists and engineers are immigrants. Forty percent of Ph.D. scientists working in the U.S. are foreign-born. They are sources of innovation, progress, and — not to be ignored — jobs. If our immigration laws allowed more high-skilled workers into the country, the result would be faster growth and higher employment.

America has a long waiting list of eager high-skilled immigrants. Some of them may be future Nobel laureates.

But current immigration laws are keeping them out the country. The H-1B visa for skilled immigrants is capped at 85,000. Demand is far higher than that in most years. In non-recession years, those 85,000 spots are typically filled in a single day.

The quota on highly skilled immigrants is economically costly. Genius-level intellects are missing out on the chance to flower at the world’s best universities. They’re also missing out on one of the world’s best entrepreneurial environments. The world is missing out on their lost achievements. And Americans are missing out on cutting-edge jobs in high-tech fields. Consumers lose out on products that are never invented.

A 2005 World Bank study found that foreign graduate students working in the United States file an enormous number of patents. A quarter of international patents filed from the U.S. in 2006 named a non-U.S. citizen working in the U.S. as the inventor or co-inventor. Immigrants — some of whom our immigration bureaucracy refuses to recognize — are responsible for an outsized portion of today’s rapid technological advancement.

Fortunately for America, some of these high achievers are willing to break the law to be here. According to the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Immigration Statistics, there are almost 300,000 illegal Indian immigrants in the U.S. Many of them arrived here on H-1B or student visas and have overstayed their legal residency in hopes of getting a green card.

The non-partisan National Foundation for American Policy reports that for every H-1B visa issued, U.S. technology firms increase their employment by five workers. It is a remarkable policy failure that almost 300,000 Indian immigrants live in legal limbo. They should be allowed to flex their entrepreneurial muscle without fear of being deported.

And that’s just India. There are millions of talented individuals from Asia, Europe, and elsewhere who could do wonders for America’s ailing economy, if the law would let them. A co-winner of this year’s chemistry Nobel, Ei-ichi Negishi, is an immigrant from Japan. How many like him want to come here, but can’t?

This year’s physics Nobel laureates, Andre Geim and Konstantin Novosolev, emigrated from Russia to the UK. What if they had come to the U.S. instead?

Most immigrants to the United States have lower skills than a potential Nobel Prize winner. But policy makers cannot look into the future and figure out who will win a Nobel Prize and who will be average. Immigration restrictions make it less likely for Americans to win that prize. Immigrants are less likely to find a country where they could intellectually flourish. That is the world’s loss.

The number of Nobel-caliber intellects who have lost their opportunity to do research in this country is unknown. What is known is that the U.S. government has kept out millions of the most inventive, brilliant, and entrepreneurial people in the world for no good reason.

Source: The American Spectator


Racist, Anti-Immigrant Art from the Turn of the 20th Century

In this cartoon, an Irishman and a Chinese man are devouring Uncle Sam. Ultimately, the Chinese man consumes them both and steals the Irishman’s hat.

There was a time in America when the Irish were characterized as apes, Italians as street filth, and Chinese as parasitic locusts. Today, these groups are key tiles in the American mosaic, but their arrival was initially met with fear and opposition. Newspapers and magazine cartoons from the turn of the 20th century illustrate these sentiments.

Many of these images were originally published in humor magazines such as Puck and The Wasp. Though modern-day viewers might see them as racist propaganda, perhaps in their time they functioned more as political satire. Think of Stephen Colbert and his hyperbolic, politically incorrect Chinese caricature, Ching Chong Ding Dong. One hundred years from now, people watching Colbert Report archives might misinterpret the comedy as something more sinister.

But it is safe to say there was a more sinister attitude toward immigrants in the country at the turn of the 20th century. The Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 made it government policy to restrict an ethnic group’s ability to enter the country. In 1896, an Atlantic author called immigrants”a hopeless burden” that would dilute the industriousness of the nation. In 1917, the Immigration Act barred a whole range of individuals – including the illiterate, the “feeble minded,” and homosexuals – from entering the country. Many of the images in this gallery echo these fears and portray immigrants, particularly the Chinese and the Irish, as parasites devouring what Americans hold dear.

 Regardless of these measures and sentiments, the immigrants saw the America as an ark of refuge, as the last image in this gallery shows. And although these images are hundred years old, a lot of the conversation on immigration remains the same. Today, immigrants – mostly from Latin America – have a similar dream to those who sought refuge in the 1900s. And many Americans have similar fears about what role, if any, these American hopefuls should play.
The article by Brian Resnick (with many examples of images) in The Atlantic.

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