First three Days at the Institute

Prof. Posadas of history dept. at the Northern Illinois University, has specialty in Philippine migration.

Lecture opened with the story that appeared in Milwaukee Journal in 2006 on Filipino woman. The woman came to the US in 1985 as a maid, an illegal one, but stayed for over 20 years because she was kept as an indentured servant. If she travelled and went back home she was afraid that would not be able to come back. Even if she wanted, she couldn’t because her passport was confiscated. This family, the Calimlins, instructed their Filipino servant not to appear with them and kept her in conditions similar to slavery.
How can this family of doctors be so cruel to this immigrant? The story, while unusual in nature, is typical for many immigrants who work so hard and sacrifice their life for the betterment of their families. These immigrants work conditions where they are exploited but they endure it because it helps them support their loved ones in the old country by sending remittances.
Historians of immigration have for the most part, ignored the issue of remittance. This is so because most historians focused on the people who came to America to stay. Money sent home as remittances were seen as money intended to buy ticket for the family left home. As such, immigrants were presented as forward looking individuals who break with the old country and direct their energies and resources to their adopted land. The classic case of this argument is made by Handlin, “the Uprooted” that imagines immigrants as pushed peasants who suffered a lot but at the end will become Americans some day, and if not them, their children will. In contrast to Handlin, Maldwyn Jones, views immigrants as “pulled” by the economic and upward social mobility opportunities available to them here in the US.

However, the research shows otherwise as the case of Italians who sent money home to buy house and farms in their villages. John Bodnar who wrote “The Transplanted” goes step further and demolishes the notion of immigrants as victims. He focuses on the activities immigrants engage to construct a social space for themselves. Remittances sent to back home are the most striking example of this.
The latest book on the historiography of immigration by Spickard, “Almost All Aliens,” discusses the immigrants’ role of remittances senders as the leading economic sector for their home countries.
The second part of the lecture was on the key changes affecting immigration to the US.
The 1965 Hart-Cellar Act of immigration reform law opened the doors for non European immigrants mainly Asians. Other changes were attributed to the changes in transportation and communication. It’s easier now due to the cheaper airplane. Similarly the communication such as cell phones and internet makes the decisions of immigration more likely as the immigrants tell their lives in the US to their families. Immigrants can also use the easier communication to strategize how to help the families left behind come to the US.

Prof. Posados moved on to discussing the “Transnationalism” defined as trans-migrants who maintain and develop multiple relations – familial, economic, social, organizational, religious and political that span borders. Trans-migrants take actions, make decisions, feel concerns and develop identities within social networks that connect them to two or more societies simultaneously (Schiller, 1992).
In transnationalism, remittances are central concepts. The immigrant sending remittances often sets a chain migration in motion. The importance of remittances is illustrated by the fact that in Philipines, over 17 billion $US was sent back to home. The negative side of this felt when it is affected by the fluctuations in the economy.
Torrie asked whether there is a pattern that explains which group of Philippines goes to specific places? Prof. Posados, explained the class dimension where immigrants with specific skills go to specific countries. An example is construction workers who go to Saudi Arabia and nurses who come to the United States.
Point to Note: Ethnic immigration, April 9th, 2010 keynote speaker will be Keith Ellison, my congressional delegate.
Finally: the gender and class dimension of remittances needs to be pursued further. Something I’ve to think about.

We broke for lunch.


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