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I. Introduction | matthewsimmigration

Chapter I - Introduction

Human migration has occurred since the beginning of humanity itself, and a careful examination of virtually any historical era reveals a consistent propensity toward geographic mobility among humans. 1  Of this fact there is no better proof than the spread of human beings to all corners of the earth from their initial ecological niche in sub-Saharan Africa. 2  The first inhabitants of the Western Hemisphere arrived some 30,000 years ago, crossing the Bering Strait from Asia into Alaska and migrating southward into modern-day North, Central and South America.  In the more recent history of fifteenth- and sixteenth-century exploration, Spanish, Portuguese, French, English and Dutch migrants colonized the Americas, turning the Western Hemisphere into a microcosm of the European continent, peopled in the north by northern and western Europeans and in the south by the Spanish and Portuguese. 3  In seventeenth-century mercantilist Europe, the Treaty of Westphalia ended the Thirty Years War and marked the beginning of the modern international system of states. 4

 

State-building originated in Europe and entailed consolidating territory, centralizing authority, controlling the nobility, imposing taxes and waging warfare.  The institutions of nationality and citizenship did not develop fully until the nineteenth and twentieth centuries and the reason for this development was closely related to warfare, to the beginnings of conscription and to more fully developed systems of taxation.  As contemporary warfare took on the characteristics of pitting one people against another, nationalism intensified and political elites cultivated among their populations a sense of nationalism or of belonging to a nation and a state.  The expansion of the European system of states through conquest and colonization spread these ideals of sovereignty, citizenship and nationality to the four corners of the world. 5  By the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, the American and Industrial Revolutions, World Wars I and II, decolonization, the end of the Cold War, and the breakup of the Soviet Union, Czechoslovakia, and Yugoslavia radically redrew national boundaries across the globe.

 

This is the historical origin of the notion of legally tying populations to territorial units and to specific forms of government, to notions of citizenship and sovereignty that are the cornerstones of the international legal system 6 and the objective realities in our modern international system of states.  This topical walk through history, albeit grossly abbreviated, provides the foundation for contemporary terms and concepts that describe human migration across constructed lines of territorial demarcation.  The term "emigration," or out-migration, refers to the act of leaving one’s native state to settle in a receiving state abroad for some meaningful period of time.  "Immigration," or in-migration, is the act of moving into or resettling in a state from a sending state abroad, either temporarily or permanently.  Together, these concepts comprise the "international migration" idea and are considered voluntary phenomena in contrast with coerced or involuntary migration such as banishment, exile, population transfer or ethnic cleansing, topics outside the scope of this piece.

 

Thus, international migration is as old as the nation-state and it has played an enormous role in the past expansion of receiving states.  Indeed, most of the populations of the Western Hemisphere and of Australia and New Zealand (often collectively referred to as "settler states") consist of descendents of those who immigrated over the past several centuries. 7  However, only within the last century, and particularly within the last 40 years known as the "new era of mass immigration" 8 or "the fourth great wave of immigration" 9 have the characteristics (e.g., composition, magnitude, duration and spatial concentration), patterns (primarily South-North flows from labor-abundant to capital-rich states) and resultant cost-benefit calculations associated with international migration become more embedded in the collective socio-political consciousness of nations.  International migration now constitutes an obsessive public-interest topic for many countries around the world as governments strive to understand, react to and predict the determinants as well as the actual and potential consequences of emigration and immigration on their respective national interests.  International migration has thus become one of the more controversial issues in international politics as states struggle to design immigration policies that balance economic and foreign relations advantages with domestic apprehension centered on perceived threats to national security, culture and ideology.

 

In the United States, immigration is less obsessive than cyclical as the occurrence of significant national and international events repetitiously if tediously brings the issue into the unsustainable foreground of media trends and political attention deficit.  Contractions and recessions in the national economy, communist and jihadist scares or threats to popular security and state sovereignty, and mid-war revivals of fervent if nebulous nationalism have historically served to catalyze immigration into the broader American psyche, albeit for limited durations and under a limited reactionary scope.  At a far narrower level, a handful of fringe-scholars 10 and policy-makers have consistently recognized immigration as a persistent and progressive behavioral phenomenon necessitating sustained social scientific attention in the national interest.

 

Depending upon one’s framework of analysis, the intricate relationship between immigration and the national interest can be located in a number of foundational questions and concerns involving identity, membership, moral philosophy, economic expediency, constitutional interpretation, public law and administration, international relations and the limits of practical politics. 11  Since the signing of the Treaty of Paris in 1783, in which the United States was officially recognized as an independent nation-state, two hundred years of immigration has brought the country a distinctive ethnic, racial, religious, political and economic richness as well as myriad complex problems, both empirical and constructed.  Today, domestic struggles over economic opportunities and socio-cultural identity, coupled with the political feasibility of various alternatives to address these issues on both the national and foreign policy levels, constitute a broad tripartite focal point of modern immigration studies in search of a meaningful reform strategy.

 

1 Douglas S. Massey, et al., Worlds In Motion (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1998), 1.

 

2 Ibid., 1 (citing Davis 1974: 53).

 

3 Thomas Alexander Aleinikoff, David A. Martin and Hiroshi Motomura, Immigration and Citizenship: Process and Policy (Saint Paul: Thomson West, 2003), 146 (citing Select Commission on Immigration and Refugee Policy, U.S. Immigration Policy and the National Interest, Staff Report 161-216 (1981)).

 

4 Charles Tilly, Coercion, Capital, and European States (Malden: Blackwell Publishing, 1992), 167.

 

5 Ibid., 139-140 (citing Moch 1992; Tilly 1975; Koslowski 1999; Kohn 1962; and Said 1993).

 

6 Brettell and Hollifield, "Introduction: Migration Theory," 10.

 

7 Thomas A. Pugel, International Economics (Boston: McGraw Hill, 2004), 359.

 

8 Nancy Foner, Rubén G. Rumbaut and Steven J. Gold, "Immigration and Immigration Research in the United States," in Immigration Research for a New Century, eds. Nancy Foner, Rubén G. Rumbaut and Steven J. Gold (New York: Russell Sage Foundation, 2000), 1.

 

9 Caroline B. Brettell and James F. Hollifield, "Introduction: Migration Theory," in Migration Theory: Talking across Disciplines, eds. Caroline B. Brettell and James F. Hollifield (New York: Routledge, 2000), 1.

 

10 In 1998, Rubén G. Rumbaut compiled a master list of immigration scholars for his National Survey of Immigration Scholars, which consisted of 1,189 individuals (753 of whom completed the survey).  Out of the respondents, 33% were sociologists, 28% were historians, 12% were anthropologists, and 9% were political scientists and economists.  The remaining 19% included other researchers in the fields of psychology, education, public health, urban planning, public policy, area studies, ethnic studies, and other disciplines.  Rubén G. Rumbaut, "Immigration Research in the United States: Social Origins and Future Orientations," American Behavioral Scientist 42 (1999): 1285-1301.

 

11 Aleinikoff, et al., Immigration and Citizenship, vii.

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