How to Solve the Immigration 'Problem'.

AuthorLueders, Bill

This Land Is Our Land: An Immigrant's Manifesto

By Suketu Mehta,

Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 320 pages

To hear Donald Trump tell it, the single greatest threat facing the United States today is the influx of people from other countries who want in on the American Dream. Suketu Merita's new book examines this supposed threat from every angle and declares that the arrival of immigrants is, to the contrary, an opportunity.

This Land Is Our Land is, in his words, a book "written in sorrow and rage--as well as hope." Mehta, himself an immigrant, is angry at how the the rich nations of the world have pillaged the poorer nations' resources and corrupted their governments, only to disparage the huddled masses who arrive seeking a better life.

But Mehta, an associate professor of journalism at New York University, also sees the possibility of a relatively simple solution to the immigration "problem." The solution: Stop thinking of it as a problem.

Mehta--whose previous book Maximum City: Bombay Lost and Found was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in general nonfiction--regards migration as a natural and logical reaction to desperation brought about by injustice. Wealthy countries and companies have, over many decades, exploited the worlds poorer nations, creating the conditions that cause people to flee.

"When migrants move, it's not out of idle fancy, or because they hate their homelands, or to plunder the countries they come to, or even (most often) to strike it rich," Mehta writes. "They move . . . because the accumulated burdens of history have rendered their homelands less and less habitable. They are here because you were there."

About 244 million people now live in countries other than the ones in which they were born; international migrants make up 3.3 percent of the world's population. In the United States, one study projected, immigrants and their descendants will account for 88 percent of the nation's population growth between 2015 and 2065. "This is changing elections, culture, cities--everything," Mehta observes. "Mass migration is the defining human phenomenon of the twenty-first century."

And it's only going to intensify as climate change--caused mainly by richer countries and suffered disproportionately by poorer ones--exacts its terrible toll. Since 2008, according to one estimate, some 22.5 million people worldwide have fled their homes due to climate-related extreme weather events, including hurricanes, floods, landslides...

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