Marcelo Suárez-Orozco: Immigration’s “Malaise”

Op-ed for the Los Angeles Review of Books points out xenophobia and fear of "the other" in the wake of global pandemic.

Wasserman Dean Marcelo Suárez-Orozco has published an op-ed for the Los Angeles Review of Books titled, “Immigration’s ‘Malaise,’ which focuses on the atmosphere of racism, xenophobia, and fear that has risen in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Today as immigrants and refugees manage to settle in new societies, they bring new kinship systems, cultural sensibilities (including racial, linguistic, and religious), and identities to the forefront,” writes Suárez-Orozco, who co-directs the Institute for Immigration, Globalization, and Education at UCLA. “While enriching countries of immigration, immigrant cultural and social systems at times misalign with (and even contravene) taken-for-granted cultural schemas and social practices in receiving societies.

“The contagion panic is at once literal and metaphoric — contagion as a medical construct and contagion as a theory of foreignness: panic over foreign ideas, foreign practices, and foreign folkways.”

Suárez-Orozco states that President Trump’s blame of “the Chinese virus” has fanned the flames of “an already combustible situation,” and has encouraged a surge racism against Asian Americans.

“In the age of COVID-19, fear of contamination has come define how we think about the immigrants among us,” writes Suárez-Orozco, who co-founded Re-imagining Migration in 2017 with UCLA Professor of Education Carola Suárez-Orozco. “Fear is easily weaponized in the service of hate.

“The world over, immigrants and refugees are arousing suspicion, fear of contamination, and xenophobia. Immigration is the frontier pushing against the limits of cosmopolitan tolerance. Immigration intensifies the general crisis of connection and flight from the pursuit of our inherent humanitarian obligations concerning the welfare of others.

“In the age of the COVID-19, reimagining the narrative of belonging, reclaiming the humanitarian call, and recalibrating the institutions of the nation-state are a sine qua non to move beyond the current malaise. In the long term, we must retrain hearts and minds, especially younger ones, for democracy in the context of demographic change and superdiversity. We need to convert a dread of the unfamiliar “Other” into solidarity, compassion, fraternity and a democratizing desire for cultural difference. We must endeavor to cultivate the humanistic ideal to find oneself “in Another” in the refugee, in the asylum seeker, and in the immigrant.”

To read “Immigration’s ‘Malaise’ by Marcelo Suárez-Orozco in the Los Angeles Review of Books, visit this link.

Photo by Fermin Leal, EdSource