The Other Immigration Stories

By Donna R. Gabaccia, Professor of History and Director, Immigration History Research Center

It’s often said that bad news is real news while good news…well, good news often just doesn’t make it onto the front page. Is the only immigration news we read the bad news?

This week we went looking for the quieter immigration stories that don’t always make the headlines or even the inner pages of web and print news. Certainly in the past year, we have learned a lot about political conflicts over immigration policy in national and state capitals. Conflict and anger have been front and center in media attention to immigration. But for the reader who is willing to dig a bit, immigration stories featuring cooperation and understanding between foreign- and native-born can also be found.

In Guilford County, North Carolina—where the arrival of immigrants and refugees is a very recent development, local spokesmen, Reverend Billy Sils, acknowledge tensions and conflicts between native and newcomers. Still, Sils emphasizes how the relocation of refugees by Lutheran Family Services worked to foster cross-community understanding. According to Sils, LFS successfully appealed to locals’ religious sensibilities and to their sense of debt to those displaced by the Vietnamese War.

Here in the upper Midwest, local communities have their own, unique reasons for trying to bridge the cultural gap between long-time natives and newcomers. Precisely because it’s their responsibility to encourage order and protect all residents and to solve crimes in which foreigners are as often victims as perpetrators, many local police forces have developed innovative programs that employ immigrants as translators and co-workers in community policing programs.

Minnesota readers might also want to check out the Faribault blog:

In Worthington, site of recent “raids? on workplaces employing large numbers of immigrants—with and without proper documentation—community groups like the Nobles County Integration Collaborative seek to promote community conversation and dialogue in the aftermath of the raids. Residents of many small towns in the Midwest actively sought to attract meatpacking employers offered, hoping to reverse demographic declines in their communities. Some have been surprised and shocked by the social consequences of sudden influxes of heavily male, transient workers in dangerous, low-wage packing plans. As family settlement has begun, however, community organizations seek to achieve their original goals of community-building while welcoming as members of the community foreign worker.

Even Girl Scouts—scarcely an organization that we association with conflict OR radicalism—attempts to create opportunities for immigrant girls and daughters to discuss the problems of adaptation to life in a new environment.

Perhaps the least newsworthy, but nevertheless important, stories of growing familiarity and intimacy between Americans and immigrants can be found in the marriage registers of towns throughout the United States. Intermarriage between older and newer Americans is not a trivial phenomenon and it is growing in importance. Over ten percent of women immigrants from Asia marry outside their own group, most often with white, native-born men. Among children of immigrants, rates of intermarriage with persons of other backgrounds typically double.

Even though we looked long and hard we were unsuccessful in finding much media attention to this phenomenon. The reader who wants to learn about this quiet, slow story of cultural accommodation must still be willing to read a highly specialized and academic and scholarly literature on the topic. There, at least, a different and more peaceful story of immigration and accommodation is slowly unfolding.,1218-stevens.shtm


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About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Dan Ott published on January 26, 2007 2:41 PM.

Iraq, Refugees, and Responsibility was the previous entry in this blog.

More Than a War of Words: Playing Political Football with Immigration is the next entry in this blog.

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