International Organization of Migration (IOM agency of the United Nations), since its inception in 2000, has published its ninth report in 2018 with the purpose of contributing to an increased understanding of migration throughout the world. In a fast-evolving, global, socio-political arena where facts and expertise have been pushed aside by opinionated agendas and self-centered leadership, the role of IOM is crucial. Never in the history of humanity than the present have we required a better and more realistic understanding of migrants and what compels them to migrate. The topic on ‘Migrant Words’ during the JLF Houston session was thus a most timely and essential subject for understanding, analysis and assimilation.
The organizers could not have chosen a better panel of discussants than Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, Mira Jacob and Ussama Makdisi- celebrated authors and themselves migrants who have generously contributed to their adopted countries and who could profusely relate to personal experiences encountered as migrants. In a country like the United States of America, where everyone except the sparse and isolated native is a migrant, the present, alarming dialogs and looming developments about migration is a threateningly dangerous trend.
As a country of immigrants, America is a nation built by them and continues to benefit from their ongoing efforts in essentially maintaining this place. If the Nobel laureates, corporate executives, scientists, teachers, doctors and technologists are enriching this country with their scholarly contributions, the less educated labor migrants keep our farms yielding, roads built, and buildings cleaned. The migrants also bring in a wealth of their cultural treasures, adding on to the kaleidoscopic collage of this magnificent nation. Yet, there are disturbing instances that we all face, of discrimination and racial profiling. The three panelists enumerated sad references and anecdotes of discrimination that they have observed and what their children endured from bias and intimidation, the parents not even knowing how to console them or compromise on dignity.
As much as the writers and their writings focus on educating the younger generation of our culture and our ethnic customs with a hope to pass on their legacy, it serves to update those we left behind on our plight here, as well as to educate the curious locals and help them become comfortable with and appreciative of alien habits and the migrant’s plight. Through fictional characters created by the writers and through our social and cultural interactions with the locals, our generation of migrants desire to generate a sense of compassion and sensitivity in the policy makers in dealing with newcomers.
The future of immigrants in America is hard to predict. The prevailing trend, the tribe mentality of America as evident from the many sections of the present government colluding to make it hard for immigrants, is disturbing, even scary. The leadership hopefully would change and resort to understanding and accommodating all, without discrimination and with equanimity. Writers do play a significant role in achieving the status.