Thursday, April 7, 2011

"Guests and Aliens"

Sassen's "Guests and Aliens" uses empirical and historical evidence to discuss immigration patterns and policies in Europe. I found Sassen's discussion of the development of the "nation-state" in Europe very interesting and in particular how the development of borders creates a notion of an "outsider."  When I reflect on my own definition of an outsider, I do realize that I define this term through the use of borders. Because how can one be an outsider if there is not some boundary between being in and out? My personal definition of an outsider employs the use of political borders, such as borders between nations, or geographical borders, such as Eastern and Western Washington, as well as less physical borders such as differences in culture. Before reading this article, I had not thought of immigration as a process that becomes inherent with the definition and creation of borders.

I found Sassen's study on the different immigration patterns of Germany, France, and Italy particularly interesting because it really highlights the inhomogeneity of immigration policy throughout Europe. I found it interesting how economic differences in the respective nations really defined and drove the types of immigration patterns and policies: urbanization and industrialization in Germany required cheap migrant workers while the maintenance of an agrarian civilization in France demanded a more constant influx of permanent immigrants. I think this shows one potentially valuable method of studying immigration.

In addition, I thought that Sassen's characterization of immigration as a "pattern" of human movement was interesting in that it implies that immigration can be studied in terms of  populations or groups. Although every migrant individual has a unique tale and rationale, these individuals could be understood in terms of a larger scope and that it is important to understand "why these people in motion exist in the first place" (Sassen 2). I share Sassen's view that by better understanding the rationale behind immigration, nations can avoid some of the xenophobic classifications that exist today and nations similar to the United States can more effectively cope with immigration because they will better understand the root cause. The notion of better understanding the reason behind immigration patterns ties into an important ongoing theme in Sassen's "Guests and Aliens" that I agree with: that concrete evidence and facts will be most crucial in helping to form future immigration policy.