A New York Times article recently reported that more and more children of US immigrants are pursuing their “American dreams” abroad. The article featured a handful of such cases, including children of Indian, Chinese, and
Brazilian immigrants. In reading this piece I felt hopeful and optimistic. Everybody already knows the story of how America offers opportunities for immigrants, specifically from countries of the Global South (and East). There is education, career opportunities, medical care, safety, security, liberty, freedom and all of the protection provided by the articles of the constitution and the bill of rights. The reasons for migration to the US are infamous and have been throughout history.
The downside is that the more people gained by the alluring American dream, the more are lost to countries who could use more of their ambitious, brilliant and creative nationals. Yet circumstances don’t always allow for this. In fact, the conditions in countries like China, Pakistan, Mexico, and countless others actually hinder a person’s ability to remain there and live a wholesome or even safe life. In most cases, it was the mother country forsaking its citizens rather than the other way around.
One country’s downtrodden could be America’s next Steve Jobs or Mark Zuckerberg. And so they come and they stay. But in order for things to change on a global sphere don’t we need to re-distribute the figurative wealth of intellect and human capital? As the world plummets even more swiftly towards globalization and with the rise of BRIC in the supposed new world order, isn’t it beneficial in the big scheme of things for people to spread out and contribute to emerging economies? I guess it depends on where you sit – which continent you sit on that is.
Aside from strengthening emerging economies, the re-routing of migration patterns tends to make things more interesting. While generation after generation breeds American citizens, much of the cultural and ethnic authenticity of immigrants is lost. Assimilation, while necessary in many respects, also has the ability to strip away at cultures and traditions that make people and communities unique. With American citizen children of immigrants returning to their mother countries, there is hope and a chance that they will reclaim their traditional languages, cultures and traditions. That these things will not be lost to their children or even their grandchildren. Isn’t there a beauty in that?
Lastly, with the strong Western influence in most countries and regions of the Global South and East (language, pop culture, and entertainment), Americans will have an interesting influence on their generational peers. Perhaps a number of negative stereotypes regarding Americans will be broken down with this changing tide (and hopefully not strengthened).
Naturally, the worrisome aspect of reverse migration, to Americans at least, may be the realization that America is no longer the pinnacle of opportunity and achievement that it used to be. There’s no denying, however, that it still holds a strong, perhaps strongest, power over immigrants aspiring to build a life here. But it’s also true that things have changed. Perhaps it was economics that fueled this fire, but in grasping opportunities abroad, whether in India or Brazil or China, or elsewhere, the children of immigrants are reclaiming parts of their identities. Their mother countries are getting another chance to salvage broken relationships.
Read the New York Times article: Many U.S. Immigrants’ Children Seek American Dream Abroad, April 15, 2012.