Mehta (Maximum City: Bombay Lost and Found, 2004), an immigrant from India who now teaches journalism at New York University, turns in a powerful defense of movement in search of better lives.
“Why are you in my country?” So asked an exasperated Briton of Mehta’s grandfather, who had come to London. The answers are several, not least of them the fact that the British had, of course, come unbidden to India, and the same question applied to them: “They stole our minerals and corrupted our governments so that their corporations could continue stealing our resources.” More to the point, though, the author—who notes that at least a quarter of a billion people now live in countries other than the ones in which they were born—writes that immigrants bring economic vitality, diversity, and cultural health to the places to which they come. Sometimes they’re not coming in the numbers that one might desire, as in the case of Indians who choose to remain at home rather than staff the depleted ranks of IT workers in Germany, a place that, like so many other European nations, is now experiencing nativist resentment and the far-right politics that ensue. Why move there, asks Mehta, to a place where hatred and division reigns? It’s not just Donald Trump’s America, though Trump’s America is a poster child for this sort of intolerance: Mehta notes that Indians fear Bangladeshis, South Africans fear Zimbabweans, and so on. Even so, and despite obstacles, the author writes that “mass migration is the defining human phenomenon of the twenty-first century,” probably one that cannot be contained. Nor should we want to, for, despite Trumpian protestations that the country is full, Mehta counters, “America has succeeded, and achieved its present position of global dominance, because it has always been good at importing the talent it needs.”
An intelligent, well-reasoned case for freedom of movement in an era of walls and fences.