Monday, April 16, 2007


The Fighting 44s really do make me think. This post on immigration is kind of old, but I've been mulling it over for a couple weeks. (Actually it's a reprint of an article from The Economist) Something struck me as not right from the get go, and now I think I've finally put my finger on what bothers me. I think I'm being taken for a ride.

The premise of the article seems to be calling for reform to the immigration system. Particularly in favor of high tech, highly educated Asian professionals. The article uses the film The Namesake as a reference point. As well as an illustration of the new immigrant experience, according to the author the classic American dream, 2 kids, a white collar job, and apparently a rich white girlfriend for his American born son.

Mr Ganguli is part of a huge army of immigrants who have brought their brains and enthusiasm to the United States—not just Indians and Pakistanis but also Chinese, Koreans and Europeans. America’s high-tech industries are powered by foreign brains.

He talks about a number of things. In reading it, there are several opinions which occur to me. The biggest one being not what he's talking about but what he's leaving out. The quote above lists the nationalities he's talking about. South Asians, Northeast Asians, and Europeans. It's interesting who he's leaving out, Mexicans, Haitians, Africans, Filipinos, Vietnamese, to name a few.

The model minority stereotype, which has plagued many an undergraduate Asian studies class, as well as Asian American rap CD has reared its ugly head. We're being paid a compliment here at first blush. Well those of us who are smart enough, and white collar enough, and educated enough anyway. Apparently the rest of us just don't exist. According to this author, we're getting a ticket to suburbia, complete with the white girlfriend if we buy into this whole deal. (I really just can't get over the equation of the white girlfriend to 'an American success story.' Does that mean that if Gogol takes her with him to the airport he won't get 'randomly' searched as much?)

It's clear that he's not unaware of some of these other groups, he does mention fence building as evidence of anti-immigrant sentiment. However, they are invisible within the larger discussion. And anti-immigrant sentiment is just an inconvenience to him, because it creates obstacles in the pipeline of immigrant talent. It seems to be the author's view that immigration has been heavily skewed towards reuniting families rather than recruiting these eager young citizens of the world.

The author mentions HB-1 Visas, I am not that familiar with this topic, although I have heard that it has been criticized as exploitative. Import a bunch of fresh-off-the-boat techs, employ them at lower wages than American workers expect. When they become experienced and uppity enough to demand a more equitable salary, their limited Visa has run out and you can ship in a fresh batch.

Which brings us to the other half of the model minority myth, which would be The Glass Ceiling. The author fails to mention the fact that Asian Americans remain the most overeducated but underpaid ethnic group. We're educated enough to be the programmer or the lab tech, but we don't make manager. This is true for American born Asian Americans, it goes doubly for immigrants whose lack of fluency in English or different cultures can make even more difficult to "network."

I'm not sure what to make of the fact that the author doesn't really talk about how non-white collar immigration fits into his world view. Perhaps it's low class of me to ask. I also feel like this is proof that the "Asians are honorary whites" meme is still out there. We're good enough, white enough, non threatening enough to be gain some of the access and benefits. But we still don't qualify for the whole deal. However, some evidence has surfaced that seems to prove that we're not the tools that everyone thinks we are. So I'm not going to waste my time wringing my hands about how some of us may buy into this. Some of us probably will, I'm going to hope that most of us are smart enough not to.

No comments: