Creating New Immigrant Communities

Radcliffe on the Road: New York City
Feliz Garip, an associate professor of sociology at Harvard, spoke about Mexican immigrants. Photo by Jane HouleFeliz Garip, an associate professor of sociology at Harvard, spoke about Mexican immigrants. Photo by Jane Houle

Related to Radcliffe’s April conference “Crossing Borders: Immigration and Gender in the Americas,” a mid-February presentation in New York City focused on trends in immigration and the communities that immigrants create when they come to the United States. All three speakers at the presentation are themselves immigrants to the United States or Canada who are doing transnational research that focuses on immigration to and within the Americas.

Filiz Garip, a sociologist, discussed her research on immigration from Mexico to the United States, which remains the largest international flow of people in the world. Her goal, she said, is to correct a fundamental misunderstanding about who the Mexican migrants are and why they come to the United States.

“In the popular imagination,” Garip said, the stereotypical Mexican migrants are “young, uneducated men, typically from rural areas, who settle in the United States in search of better prospects.” She studied migration over the past four decades and found that people’s reasons for migrating have changed over time.

In the 1970s, the largest group was indeed composed of poor, uneducated rural farmers who went north to earn money to take back to Mexico. By the early 1990s, however, educated factory workers from cities made
up the largest group. The free trade agreement meant that their skills were devalued in Mexico, so workers emigrated, Garip said. In her view, immigration policy should recognize that people migrate in response to economic and political conditions.

Garip is an associate professor of sociology at Harvard. She helped to shape “Crossing Borders.”

Héctor Carrillo RI ’13, the Maury Green Fellow at Radcliffe, discussed a group of people whose motive for emigrating to the United States is not economic but personal. These are male homosexuals from Latin America who come to the United States to live in communities more accepting than those they have experienced at home. His research shows, he said, “that Mexicans migrate in some cases to get away from their families to achieve their sexual independence, but also out
 of love for their families and a desire to protect them from social stigma.”

Carrillo is a professor of sociology at Northwestern University.

Nicolás Pereda RI ’13, a filmmaker who was born in Mexico, was a David and Roberta Logie Fellow at Radcliffe and the Radcliffe-Harvard Film Study Center Fellow. While living in Toronto and playing soccer with his son, he met Roma refugees from Hungary. He’s now making a film about Roma families who live in public housing there, in incredibly tight spaces. “Roma people are not popular immigrants anywhere,” he said. “There’s a new wave of hate crimes against them in Hungary and other European countries. They migrate 
to Canada to avoid being killed. To have
 to return is worse than ever, because their countrymen see them as traitors.

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