Monday, April 16, 2007

Migration: the pitfalls of duality!

by Hiram José Irizarry Osorio, Research Associate for the Kirwan Institute

Over the last year the immigration issue in the U.S. has been projected as a duality, but with a focus only on one side of that duality. I propose thinking about migration instead of immigration. This is not to argue that immigration is not taking place, but by framing the discussion in solely immigration terms, the understanding of social reality becomes so partial that it promotes a mental scenario of fear, lending itself nicely to demarcate a starker bordering of “the other”.

Framing the discussion as a migration issue sheds light on what really is at stake: movement of people. The direction of those moves, immigration or emigration, would depend on the analytical gaze we assume and where we position ourselves as social spectators and citizens of the world. Immigration becomes a problem when “those entering our community” are perceived as toxic elements. This focus does not gaze at the other side of the duality. A complete gaze uncovers the reality that our fates are linked and that the problems taking place elsewhere are not disconnected from “our community”.

This is why we should push ourselves to be forward looking, while remaining contextualized when we think about migration. The reason the migration issue has become salient does not lie within any “oddities” of “those coming in”, but within an incomplete reading and appreciation of what is at stake: the reasonable expectation of human beings to live a life that they have reason to value.

My purpose here is to exhort ourselves to question how we organize our society. This requires courage, humility, and a complete willingness to work for and within a democratic society. It is a call to embrace and welcome a reassessment of our societal arrangements, which takes courage because there can be no courage while “residing” within our comfort zones. Fear of the unknown can push us either to seclusion-exclusion or to openness-inclusion. I propose the openness-inclusion path, which requires courageous acts and thoughts.

This is why we need to create spaces for dialogue across those constructed borders that divide us. This is not for reifying them, but for acknowledging their existence because they organize our current understanding of reality. At the same time we should collectively pursue their expansion without losing sight of the objective to make real our common humanity and without this implying a simplistic seeking of homogeneity. Heterogeneity and homogeneity are both socially constructed and paying attention to just one side of this duality distorts our gaze of reality and obstructs our quest to live a life that we have reason to covet.

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