Border Crossings

The New York Times started its “Border Crossings” article series a couple days ago – the first of which fixed a critical lens on how migration has affected the island nation of Cape Verde. The journalist Jason DeParle successfully gets at the deep societal tensions that grow in the space between those who’ve left and those left behind:

… If Cape Verde is the Galapagos of migration, Jorgen Carling, a Norwegian geographer, is its Darwin. A rising star on the academic circuit, Dr. Carling, 32, visited Cape Verde 10 years ago, taught himself Kriole, the local language, and has been returning ever since.

“Cape Verde is a showcase of the contradictions and frictions of global migration,” he said. “It is in a quite dramatic transition — from being so dependent on migration to trying to cope with a world in which borders are closing.”

The tensions he cites abound. Migration reduces poverty. But it increases inequality between migrants and others back home. Migration can express family devotion. It can also strain family bonds …

[Read full article]

While seeking a better life in a new country is an opportunity that all should be afforded, it is important to bear in mind a historical observation DeParle himself makes: “No country has climbed out of poverty through migration alone.”

Migration can mean temporary economic salvation for poor countries, or safe harbor for those persecuted by despotic regimes. But continued departures will also certainly drain the essence of already crumbling nations. This vicious cycle is apparent in the scores of skilled workers, academics and doctors throughout the Middle East and Africa who have had to leave simply because staying meant – both literally and figuratively – going nowhere.

I’m anxious for the second installment of this series to run, and I would definitely recommend giving it a thorough read.

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