With migrants flooding Europe and the refugee crisis unfolding, we are worrying how they will cope. Is it feasible for any country to digest such a suddenly massive influx of so culturally different newcomers and sustain its own values?
The pros and cons are mixed. Many advocate the economic pro-reasoning; the Eastern European countries are dead-set against accepting Muslim refugees because Western multiculturalism is too novel there; some core EU nations would be willing to accommodate refugees but the sheer numbers of asylum seekers are cost-and-capabilities prohibitive. So far, the U.S. shows compassion in thought, but it will have to eventually respond to the SOS calls in deed.
Meanwhile, the migrant crisis is shifting some public perception of all foreign-born to more negative feelings: to thinking of immigration as predominantly illegal, a problem rather than a solution. Those who believe that forget that immigration is a proven solution to replenishing a nation's creative workforce and sustaining global competitiveness, which the Economist, a balanced think-tank media, keeps reminding us.
Let's think positively. Just as migration continues to accelerate in today's world, so does legal immigration. Nobody can reset the clock of history -- it goes in one direction only. Dealing with issues constructively, we need to help our documented immigrants--wherever they came from--to integrate ASAP and contribute their 100 percent to the country's well-being. The question is not 'If' but 'How'?
Just as important as immediate food and shelter, immigrants need advice: both big picture understanding and practical tips. Interested in the gendered aspect of immigration, let me sketch a big picture situation that awaits women newly arriving in America.
Women, America Welcomes You, but...
As a group, U.S. immigrant women now outnumber immigrant men (51.4 percent as of 2012). But most have a relatively low visibility, and their interests are largely overlooked in public policy. Ignored by the public and stigmatized at work, some are often reluctant to admit they are immigrants--unless the accent gives them away.
To highlight the contributions of immigrant women to America's well-being and culture, I set out to write a book and show what they bring to the table. It appears they have a lot to offer their new home country--but they need to learn English, all-American culture and the general rules of the game. In fact, they need to reinvent themselves to succeed. As Stephen Covey put it, "You can't change the fruit without changing the root." The good news is that this is doable and actually accomplished by successful outstanding women.
From Women to Women: Success Tips
As part of the interviews for my book, many prominent American immigrants gave advice from the heart, to help advance other women's success in the U.S. They sound stimulating as well as wise--please take a note:
Isabel Allende, world-famous Chilean-American writer, showed her caring:
1. "We, immigrant women, bring many wonderful things with us: first, biculturalism; second - bilingualism. So remember: we are richer because of this."
2. "Take the best this country has to offer and retain what your country equipped you with (for example, profound sense of community and family vs. typical American families often being scattered, kids going to college and coming back only for Thanksgiving, at best)--but do not look back."
3. "Remember, it's wonderful that everybody brings so many different things to the US, which makes it a stronger country. Many Americans don't realize the richness that immigrants bring--forgetting about the ancestors who came in a boat."
Edwina Sandys, a British-American sculptor and artist, focused on showing respect to the American people:
1. "Speak English well--it's showing the respect to the country as well. Language can be a huge barrier to your success."
2. "It's important not to be angry. Be respectful to all people because you came from another country and America accepted you."
3. "It's important to be yourself--as much yourself as you can be. Do not pose for somebody you are not."
Ivana Trump, business woman and socialite, shared her hard-earned wisdom morsels:
1. "I think the most difficult issue facing immigrants is learning how to write and speak such a complex language [English]. So many nuances, and words that mean different things, make it difficult and frustrating. But, if you stick with it, eventually you get it. And if you don't really understand--smile a lot. It makes you look very wise and happy."
2. "Believe in yourself... in all you can do... and for you, the deals will start to work in your favor. You need to be open to such deals, and they will come, I assure you."
3. "You have to have a certain ego if you want to achieve something. You have to have certain goals.... Good luck now!"
Ani Palacios McBride, founder of Contacto Latino and International Latino Book Awards Winner, found succinct and crystal-clear wording:
1. "In America, everything is possible. Even as we go through a horrible downturn in the USA, this country is still the innovator of the world. Whatever you dream of achieving, this is still the place to do it."
2. "Make sure you insert yourself into society-at-large. Give yourself an equal opportunity by learning English, making American friends, and exploring American customs. As you rebirth, you can choose to delete some of your country of origin customs and way of looking at the world that maybe you never cared for and add some new customs from this country."
3. "Immigrating is a second chance at life, at starting all over. Make sure your sacrifices are not lost in the shuffle; make sure you get what you want."
Use Your Brains
The latest migration wave looks more and more like some shifting sands, expansive and inevitable. It takes a powerful nation to build sustainable solutions, and to be the leader of the world. This is in our national interests, period! Could you suggest your best ideas of how to address this?