A Global Perspective on Immigration

By Marcelo Suárez-Orozco & Carola Suárez-Orozco

Sometimes the political rhetoric and the public debates about immigration can narrow our perspectives. It can seem as if our country and our communities are the only places that are impacted by migration. In fact, immigrant and migration are among the defining features of our time. All continents are involved in the mass movement of people: as areas of immigration, emigration, or transit, and often, as all three at once. In the 21st century, immigration is the human face of globalization: the sounds, colors, and aromas of a miniaturized, interconnected, and fragile world. During the second decade of the 21st century, 244 million people are international migrants (or 3.3% of the world’s population), approximately 750 million are internal migrants, and millions more are immediate relatives left behind. Only China (1.36 billion) and India (1.28 billion) have larger populations than today’s “immigration nation.”

Since the dawn of the millennium, the world has been witnessing a rapid rise in the numbers of a plurality of migrants —involuntary, internal or international, authorized or unauthorized, environmental refugees, and victims of human trafficking. These flows have intensified under the ascendancy of globalization, growing inequality, fragile and collapsing states, war and terror, and climate change. Catastrophic migrations pose new international risks to millions of migrants and challenge the institutions of sending, transiting and receiving nations. Although immigration is not new, it has taken a dystopic turn. Worldwide, civil and ethnic wars, structural violence, environmental cataclysms, and growing inequality are behind the largest displacement of people since World War II. Of the over 60 million forcefully displaced, half are children.

The United States (U.S.), much of Western Europe, as well as newly industrialized countries such as Russia, India, China, South Africa, Turkey, and others are being changed and challenged by mass migration. The U.S. leads the world in the number of immigrants. Currently, 45.0 million people (or approximately 14%) residing in the U.S., are foreign born. In the year 2065, the U.S. is projected to have an estimated 78 million immigrants. Immigrants in the U.S. today arrive from every continent on earth. The latest data tell a dynamic story: Asians now surpass Latinos among those who have been in the U.S. for five years or less. After peaking in the early 2000s, Latino immigration is now at its lowest level in 50 years. New immigration from the Caribbean now exceeds all new immigration from Europe. The number of new immigrants from “Africa grew 41% from 2000 to 2013, a sharper rise than for other major groups.” Demographic projections suggest that by 2065, the U.S. will be the first major advanced post-industrial society in history to become minority-majority – already a demographic reality in many states including California.

In the U.S., immigration is both history and destiny: it is how the country came to be in the present form and it is the future. The children of immigrants are the fruit borne of immigration. Twenty-five percent of children under the age of 18, a total of 18.7 million children, have an immigrant parent. Their growth has been rapid—in 1970 the population of immigrant origin children stood at 6% of the total population of children. It reached 20% by 2000 and is projected to increase to 33% by 2050. The transition of these children to citizenship, to the labor market, and to the narrative of the nation will deeply shape the future of our nation.

The majority of the children of immigrants are born in the U.S. of foreign-born parents. They are U.S. citizens; though approximately a quarter are growing up in the shadows of sanctioned immigration status. The most recent estimates suggest that 4.5 million U.S.-born children younger than 18 years old are living in the U.S. with at least one parent who is an unauthorized migrant. Altogether, about 7% of all school-aged children in the U.S. have at least one parent who is in the U.S. without authorization. Though many of these children demonstrate extraordinary resilience in the face of exceptional odds, they also face particular challenges and risks.

To learn more about those risks, sign in to download a free copy of Disrupting Narratives of Social Exclusion for Immigrant Children and Youth by Carola Suárez-Orozco, Marcelo Suárez-Orozco, and Robert Teranishi

This blog is adapted from  Disrupting Narratives of Social Exclusion for Immigrant Children and Youth by Carola Suárez-Orozco, Marcelo Suárez-Orozco, and Robert Teranishi

Marcelo Suárez-Orozco is Wasserman Dean and Distinguished Professor of Education, UCLA Graduate School of Education & Information Studies. He leads two academic departments, 16 nationally renowned research institutes, and two innovative demonstration schools at UCLA’s Graduate School of Education & Information Studies. His research focuses on cultural psychology and psychological anthropology, with an emphasis on mass migration, globalization, and education. Upon arriving at UCLA in 2012, he founded the Institute for Immigrant Children, Youth, and Families, which he co-directs with Dr. Carola Suárez-Orozco, UCLA Ed & IS professor of education. A native of Buenos Aires, Suárez-Orozco earned his A.B. in psychology, M.A. in anthropology, and Ph.D. in anthropology at UC Berkeley. At Harvard University, he served as the Victor S. Thomas Professor of Education and Culture (2001-2004), and co-founded and co-directed the Harvard Immigration Project in 1997. Prior to arriving at UCLA Ed & IS, Suárez-Orozco was the inaugural Courtney Sale Ross University Professor of Globalization and Education at NYU.

Carola Suárez-Orozco is a Professor of Human Development and Psychology and the Co-Director of the Institute for Immigration, Globalization, and Education at UCLA. Her previous books include: Children of Immigration, Learning a New Land, as well as the soon to be released Transitions: The Development of the Children of Immigrants. She has been awarded an APA Presidential Citation for her contributions to the understanding of the cultural psychology of immigration and has served as Chair of the APA Presidential Task Force on Immigration.

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