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TEDxRainier - Pramila Jayapal

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TEDxRainier: Pramila Jayapal Migration, Immigration, Movement Today, nearly a billion people across the world are on the move and 214 million people live in a country other than the one in which they were born. One in seven people in the world is a migrant, and right here in the United States, we have the largest share of international migrants of any country in the world, 33 million people, or twenty percent of the international migrant population of the world, lives right here in the United States. I am one of those people. I was born in India and I moved with my family as a child to Indonesia. When I was sixteen, my parents sent me to college in the United States even though they only had $5,000 in their bank account. They sent me here because they believed that this is the country that I would get the best education and have the brightest future. My friend Beth is a Philippina-American and she likes to say that we immigrants live in the hyphen. We live in the space between the places that we come and the places that we go. We live in the space of change because if there's one thing that's true about migration, it is that everyone and anyone who's touched by it, changes. We are a global people of movement, we always have been, and in a rapidly globalizing world, we will continue to be. In fact, it's often our own foreign policy decisions and trade policy decisions that actually fuel migration. And yet, at the same time that the world has embraced the free flow of goods and capital, and ideas, we have restricted the free flow of people. Whatever your thoughts are on globalization, the reality is that there is an inherent contradiction in our reluctance to think creatively, sanely and humanely about what a managed flow of labor, if not a free flow of labor, looks like. Instead of fighting migration, we need to embrace it. We need to think about it as essential and we need to manage it in ways that not only feed and meet our economic needs, but actually feed our souls as human beings connected in a global world, whether we live in a village in India, or a township in South Africa, or a small town in America. Unfortunately, here is a growing group of anti-immigrants here in the United States and around the world, who are using migration and immigration as wedges used for their own political gain. And they have one story to tell and it's an us versus them story, and it goes something like this. There are a billion people in the world moving from poor to rich countries. They're overcrowding us, they're taking our jobs, they're making our resources scarce and they are not like us, they seek to do us harm. I think we've all heard that story. And with that story, there is only one solution, and that solution is for restriction of policy that actually blocks the flow of labor. But, research and history tell us a very different story. Research and history tell us that migration isn't just inevitable, it's actually essential, and it's good for us. So, in most developed countries, what we see is the workforce aging and retiring and most of the growth, the new growth in the labor market, is actually coming from immigrants to those countries. The reality is that immigrants are entrepreneurs and they consume like the rest of us they consume everyday, and so they contribute to the economy everyday. The Center for American Progress recently published a report that said "if the United States Congress were to pass comprehensive immigration reform that actually regularizes the flow of immigrants to the United States, 1.5 trillion dollars would flow into the U.S. Economy over the next ten years.” But, I guess the policy makers aren't reading those reports because the reality is that comprehensive immigration reform legislation has been stalled for almost two decades in this country. Right now in America, we have 12 million undocumented immigrants who are living in the shadows fearing deportation every day, even though they are doing the work that we need them to do. We have 4 to 5 million legal residents who have actually applied legally for their closest family members to come into the United States and sometimes wait up to two decades for their family members to come. Fruit rots in the orchards because we don't have enough hands to pick the fruit. And researchers and wonderful scientists who want to come to the United States and contribute their knowledge are unable to do so because they can't get visas for themselves and for their families. Here in the United States as in much of the rest of the world; Spain, Sweden, Germany, France; policymakers, instead of really finding real solutions to how we manage migration, have embraced restrictionist policies that are not just costly and ineffective, but they're actually counterproductive. Consider that in the same generation that saw the collapse of the Berlin Wall, we have seen the build-up of one of the greatest militarized zones in the world right here on the southern border of the United States. The Berlin Wall was 96 miles long, the Wall on the U.S,/Mexican Border is 650 miles long and the United States has stationed 17,000 active border troops on that southern border of the United States. That is equivalent to the active military troops of twenty combined countries around the world. When I look at all the walls, and the borders, and the fences, that we are building to surround ourselves in America, I am reminded of something that the wonderful novelist Alicia Fox said in her TED talk. She was talking about her grandmother, who was a somewhat mystical person in her village. And her grandmother would get rid of people's warts by drawing a circle around them. “The power of the circle”, Sha Fox said, “is that when you surround something completely, block it off from everything else that's around it, and prevent anything from going inside; what happens is that what's inside dries up and dies”. And here in America, if we surround ourselves with thicker and thicker walls that prevent the flow of people and ideas into our Country, we too will dry up and die. (applause) The polarization and backlash is damaging in so many ways, but most of all it destroys our souls. It makes us less than who we are as human beings who believe that every individual, regardless of who you are or where you came from, or what you believe, every individual deserves the right to dignity and respect. It makes us less of who we as human beings because, instead of thinking from a place of possibility and abundance which is where all great creative thoughts come from, we think from a place of scarcity and fear. For the immigrant who is picking the food that we eat everyday, taking care of our children every day, cleaning the rooms that we sleep in and live in every day; the pain is unbearable. The pain is unbearable of being called illegal, being told that they're sneaking across the border just to take our jobs and drain our resources and contribute nothing, and have babies just to stay in the United States. And as you heard earlier, the anti-Islamic sentiment is intense for the immigrant who is classified as a terrorist simply because they are Muslim or because they come from a particular country the shame and the outrage cuts deep. And on a very personal level, I can tell you that after nine years of doing this work, I have received thousands of hate messages; letters, emails and phone calls. I have been told; even here in the diverse, progressive Seattle; I have been told to go home even though I have lived in the United States for 29 years of my life, a full two-thirds of my life. But worse still I have been threatened with lynching and told that if I don't stop doing what I'm doing, I will be dancing, on air. At my organization, One America, we don't just tell the painful stories, but instead, we harness the resilience, and energy and the creativity that we believe comes through the movement of migration and we transform it into the movement for social justice. We work with seemingly ordinary individuals and we create the space for their extraordinary self to emerge in collective action for change, and we brush away that single story of the resource straining terrorist immigrant and instead we shine a light on the qualities that make us so proud of immigrants; that would make us so proud of ourselves; hard work, creativity, diversity, love for our family, and hope for the future. So imagine this, imagine if everywhere across the world and here in America, we said to every immigrant who came to our country, "We believe in you. We believe in your right to resist. We believe in your right to move. We believe in your right to contribute everything that you have to give to better the new country that you come to". And imagine if here in America and everywhere across the world, everyone stood up and spoke out against the racism, and the fear, and the polarization, and the backlash; because they know that to be silent is to be complicit. And imagine if we embraced migration as essential and good and moved toward one America and one world. Imagine if we embraced real movement of all kinds; movement of people, movement of ideas, movement for justice, and movement for real democracy. Join us and let's move! Thank you. (Applause and ovation)

Video Details

Duration: 11 minutes and 4 seconds
Country: United States
Language: English
Producer: Phil Klein
Director: Pramila Jayapal, Nassim Assefi
Views: 152
Posted by: philklein on Dec 15, 2010

Activist and writer Pramila Jayapal gives us new ways to think about immigration, migration and movement. She challenges xenophobia and discrimination, laying out powerful arguments for embracing migration.

http://www.weareoneamerica.org/staff/

TEDxRainier is an independently produced TED event held in Seattle Washington.

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