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Sunday, May 07, 2006

Transnationality - a new phase of migration

The Greater Caribbean This Week

By Rubén Silié
OPEN economy models dominate in most of the Greater Caribbean countries and the impact of globalisation is evident in the ensemble of social relations that they generate.

One can clearly see a tendency to include relations with other countries in any kind of activity undertaken, be it in business, politics, education, culture, etc. In other words, these countries look at themselves from a transnational dimension.

That new migration situation is seen as an alternative developed by the socially excluded sectors which, unable to find a way out of their economic situation within the narrow confines of their societies of origin, decide to go abroad. To a large extent, this has been referred to as transnationality from below1.

The globalisation process has served as the context for migrations, establishing new relations between the sending countries and the receiving countries, for which there have been numerous influencing factors such as the irruption of the civil society in managing international relations as a recognised actor, the telecommunications boom, air transport and the shortening of distances through the Internet, international organisations' campaign for respect for the rights of immigrants; the acceptance of cultural plurality as something beneficial for human development and other triumphs along these same lines.

Transnational communities function as a form of integration of sectors that for essentially economic reasons have decided to migrate, and once in the destination country, have developed mechanisms to secure their ties with the country of origin and even to improve their social standing there, while at the same time planting their roots in the receiving country. This ability of migrants to conquer their spaces in both the receiving country and the country of origin enables that transnational community to play a decisive part in defining their lifestyles.

For more than a decade, political leaders on both sides of the migration process, mainly in the United States, have been aware of the strength of this process, as well as its implications for international relations, politics, culture, the economy and business.

During that period of time, emigrants have created a multiplicity of entities with which they seek to reproduce the national values of their countries of origin, without them being disrupted by their becoming citizens of the recipient countries. This is what serves as a foundation so that instead of an assimilation process, similar to what took place prior to globalisation, immigrants prefer to reproduce in their place of residence, those native values that reinforce their nationality. Although immigrants are increasingly expanding their social and political spaces, they do not propose to compete with public institutions, nor do they try and displace the cultures of the recipient countries. Quite simply, each one tries to replicate their ethnic group, without competing with the existing system.

Those immigrants who are declared illegal are really irregular workers, employed illegally, that is to say, they are not the ones creating those work conditions, but rather the companies that demand such a workforce, which yields greater benefits and increases competitiveness with other markets.

In that respect, the large protests carried out against the migration law that criminalises irregular immigrants do not propose to question the system of life and politics of the United States.

However, the enormous influence of the transnational Hispanic population in that country transforms said community into an unprecedented political giant that will make the demands of protesters heard.

1 Portes, A. et al: "Globalisation from below: Immigrant transnationalism and development. The experience of the United States and Latin America".

(Dr. Rubén Silié Valdez is the Secretary General of the Association of Caribbean States. The views expressed are not necessarily the official views of the ACS. Feedback can be sent to:

Guyana Chronicle

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