Thursday, April 7, 2011

Guests and Aliens

Coming into this class, I have a very strong perception of immigration to begin with, because my family and I are immigrants ourselves. I recognize that although our motivations may have been personal to us - in our 'frame of reference', so to speak - hundreds (even thousands) of people shared a similar experience. While I may be plagued with memories and inundated with stories of coming to America, it's important to remember that immigration is both individualistic and collective, and must be approached accordingly. Guests and Aliens reminded me of this.

In explaining trends in immigration, Sassen pointed out two key features (at least, the ones that stood out to me most): region, and time period. Although these factors seem straightforward now, I had never taken them into account because my perceptions were (and quite possibly still are) still heavily tainted with years of personal stories and family history. It's interesting to think of trends, then, through a much more large-scale lens. While individuals are certainly part of the immigrating group, the group itself is more likely to mobilize individuals. And, unlike my family, not every immigrant necessarily moves for "a better life" - there are many other factors involved. A multifaceted understanding toward immigration would help alleviate many negative misconceptions and resulting injustices (I'm looking at you, American immigration policy...).

Reading Sassen's piece illuminated the larger trends of immigration for me, but also made me interested in learning these immigrants' stories. One must complement the other to help us understand how the individual fits into this large-scale phenomenon.

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