Transcript/Biography

Up
Down

"No question, this was a major shock for a community. So it's a double shock for those coming in, that somebody from another country was just telling us, 'Just imagine that. Close your eyes and imagine that you open your eyes and you find yourself in a town where nobody knows you and a street that is not your street and trying to speak a language that nobody understands. Trying to understand rules that have nothing to do with the place you left behind.'
     "So, it's an accommodation that initially is hard for both those who are coming in and those who are old residents who are also encountering this large influx. If that accommodation is not well managed, if that accommodation is not supported by enormous good will efforts on both sides – but particularly from those who have the resources, who understand, who have planned it, who have participated in the recruitment – the pain is greater. And not just at the beginning. I mean, there were welcoming centers that were formed often in communities as a result of new immigration, sometimes sooner, sometimes later. But the process of accommodation to immigration continues and needs to be supported all along. I think, absolutely, it has enormous impacts on communities that have to figure out how to educate children of different languages, that have to adapt maybe even their street signs or so that you don't have unnecessary traffic accidents or think about how you're going to handle court cases or health issues, and so forth. So that you can accommodate the working population that you have attracted to your town in order to supply a labor force that wasn't there…
     "This catchall phrase 'white flight' that sometimes is not literally white flight. I mean people running away because Latinos or African Americans are coming in. But sometimes, of course, some of that is [white flight]. But some of it is because this exodus has been occurring, you know, for a long time in rural Nebraska… "
     "There's a revolution of expectations in these newer generations that are no longer met by rural living so they've been leaving for a long time. And of course, they do leave in larger numbers as this process of integration are not as successful as they could have been…
     "Integration is something that requires purposeful effort, and we failed! And so many of these older residents saw their communities whether rightly or wrongly they see these communities overburdened. Their schools are overburdened. And they're saying, 'We're out of here.' And yes, race, ethnicity, those elements enter into the whole calculation, whether it's consciously or unconsciously, whether it's as an initial cause or as a justification that comes later. But really it is as larger structural changes and our incapacity to do integration well. You know, in a country and in a state that has all kinds of human resources, we can do a much better job. And all of us are to blame for those kinds of situations where you have then – The issue is not that whites leave. The issue is that white educated middle class professionals that pay taxes as a higher rate leave. And then you have guaranteed that community will become poorer and will become overburdened, and then you're going to for sure trigger that vicious cycle that the poorer it gets the more overburdened that it gets the more people leave.
     "The more people leave the more they tend to blame the Latinos, but it's not the Latino. You've got to look at the whole picture – It's that we had all these elements and we failed to handle them correctly. We failed to harness this incredible energy of new young people, of workers, of the possibility of having a second generation that was fully educated and integrated. And instead you have high drop out rates in many cases. You have despair…
     "The poorest of the poor in each country can seldom put together the kinds of resources that you need to migrate. But it's often those families that have been exposed to the possibility of higher expectations for their children's education – that is a major [motivation]. To be able to give their children a better life than they have had. So they don't want their children to be just a farm worker – or I shouldn't say 'just' – but a farm worker without the benefits that may come without university degree or at least if it's an associate level degree. So expectations for their family, are higher and for themselves. You also have – We forget that in Nebraska, we also have a growing number of professionals who are immigrants. But again who are not necessarily finding it that easy to stay…
     "Clearly both are coming to improve their [situation] – whether their own individual career expectations, expectations of the middle class and maybe a household being so much shattered at own countries. Many come escaping situations of violence, whether it is domestic violence or country's violence. Whether that violence is safety, personal safety due to deteriorating conditions in certain cities, or places where political conflict is [happening] like Columbia, you know, that continues to be important although lesser than it used to be. But certainly still got Guatemala, El Salvador. We still have many of those issues that were prevalent in initial migration in the 1980s. They're still there, even though in different guise.
     "And they come because they are called. They come because recruitment is the major first trigger of this migration. You don't sit at home saying, 'I wish I had a better job. Hmm, I think I'll go to Nebraska.' It doesn't happen that way. It happens because somebody understands that there are people with rising expectations and [he] comes to your door – whether it's through a flyer, through an ad in the paper, through radio in the border, or through co-nationals that go back and sometimes are even hired to go back and recruit their counterparts and say, 'Come!' And then once that starts and they come because their families are here and their friends are here, because you need that kind of social support system whether you are at home or abroad."

Lourdes Gouveia – The New Wave

   

Excerpts from Lourdes Gouveia’s Interview:

Modern Immigration
A Nation of Immigrants
Immigration & Language
Immigration Slowing Down