Cross-posted from CultureStrike
The immigration debate in the United States often centers narrowly around people who cross a border, and their social impacts on the “destination” country. But what if we viewed migration as a social phenomenon, or as a natural process? An ecological viewpoint can open a new frame for exploring the immigrant experience as a continual cultural and demographic transformation. This month, advocates at the Rio +20 earth summit took up the issue of migration as a form of ecology.
The environmental lens moves the immigration debate beyond the concept of rich countries “receiving” outsiders, or poor countries “sending” workers across borders. Seeing immigration as a zero-sum game ignores the humanity of the people who are driving, and are driven by, constant movement and resettlement. For the U.S. in particular, the focus on border enforcement–sanctifying artificial boundaries as a delimiter of citizenship–ignores the idea that migration is both an inevitable social process, and intimately connected with all other forms of social change, be they political movements, poverty, war, or, perhaps more acutely, environmental disaster.
The International Organization for Migration, which aids refugees and displaced populations, hosted a side event at the Rio +20 summit focused on the ecological implications of migration: