Managing and Mismanaging Migration: Lessons from Guestworkers’ Experiences

Short Seminar

August 4–5, 2010

Managing and Mismanaging MigrationManaging and Mismanaging MigrationSFCC Short Seminar Co-chaired by Diane Austin, Associate Research Professor, Bureau of Applied Research in Anthropology, University of Arizona and David Griffith, Senior Scientist and Professor, Department of Anthropology and Institute for Coastal Science and Policy, East Carolina University.Managing and Mismanaging MigrationSFCC Short Seminar Co-chaired by Diane Austin, Associate Research Professor, Bureau of Applied Research in Anthropology, University of Arizona and David Griffith, Senior Scientist and Professor, Department of Anthropology and Institute for Coastal Science and Policy, East Carolina University.

Managed migration, the practice of legally importing temporary workers from poorer to richer nations to perform specific, pre-designated economic services, has been increasing across North America and worldwide. Over the past six decades, managed migration has been more fully integrating the economies of Mexico, Canada, and the United States by bringing predominantly low-skilled workers to economic sectors that employers argue occasionally suffer from labor shortages. Primarily a Mexican male migration program until the late 1980s, over the past twenty years these programs have involved the participation of more women and more “sending” countries, as well as people from more variable class, educational, and ethnic backgrounds.

In August 2010, nine researchers met at the School for Advanced Research to discuss managed migration from multiple disciplinary perspectives. Included in the two-day seminar were anthropologists, sociologists, community activists, an agricultural economist, a political scientist, and an historian. They discussed nine papers and subsequently revised them into presentations for a plenary session at the March 2011 Society for Applied Anthropology annual meetings in Seattle. Several themes ran through the papers presented at the seminar, meetings, and forums and will run through the chapters in the edited volume to be submitted to SAR Press. These speak to the structure, profile, and development of managed migration programs, as well as their associated social, economic, and political impacts.

Managed migration continues to be a controversial issue, yet today more and more managed migrants join the some 20,000,000 people who live and work outside their home countries. Many anti-immigrant forces view managed migration as a feasible alternative to either undocumented immigration or liberalized immigration policies based on humanitarian values such as family reunification or the admission of refugees. Ideally, managed migrants enter countries to work annually or at least regularly, often remain somewhat isolated from local communities and the wider society, and return to their home countries when their economic services are no longer needed. Ideally, managed migrants ease unemployment problems and contribute to the development of their own home communities, remitting and carrying back earnings, goods, and ideas that they can put to use building homes, hiring workers, contributing to community infrastructure, and educating children. Unfortunately, historical and ethnographic evidence suggest that managed migration too often deteriorates from these ideals to resemble earlier, more exploitative labor relations that benefit employers and receiving communities but transfer mere trickles of wealth from richer to poorer nations and communities. The proposed volume should be particularly timely as the United States and Canada move toward long-overdue immigration reform—an outcry that is likely to be pushed further and further to the center of political debate as young Latinos in the United States attain more political power as the fastest growing minority voting bloc in the country.

Diane Austin, Chair Associate Research Professor, Bureau of Applied Research in Anthropology, University of Arizona Guestworkers in the Fabrication and Shipbuilding Industry along the Gulf of Mexico: An Anomaly or a New Source of Labor?
David Griffith, Chair Senior Scientist and Professor, Department of Anthropology and Institute for Coastal Science and Policy, East Carolina University Para Mis Hijos: Hyperproletarianization, Family, and the Managed Migration of Seafood Workers
Ricardo Contreras Assistant Professor, Department of Anthropology, East Carolina University Managing Migration, Managing Motherhood: The Moral Economy of Gendered Migration
Cindy Hahamovitch Professor, Department of History, College of William and Mary A Riotous Success: Guestworkers, “Illegal Immigrants,” and the Promise of Managed Migration
B. Lindsay Lowell Director of Policy Studies, Institute for the Study of International Migration, Georgetown University Growing Modern American Guestworkers: The Increasing Supply of Temporary H-2A Agricultural Workers
Philip L. Martin Professor, Agricultural and Resource Economics, University of California, Davis The H-2A Program: Evolution, Impacts, and Outlook
Juvencio Rocha Peralta Founder and Executive Director, Association of Mexicans in North Carolina (AMEXICAN) A History of Activism: The Organizational Work of Juvencio Rocho Peralta
Kerry Preibisch Associate Professor, Department of Sociology and Anthropology, University of Guelph, Ontario Migrant Workers and the Social Relations of Contemporary Agricultural Production in Canada
Josephine Smart Professor, Department of Anthropology, University of Calgary, Canada The Temporary Foreign Workers Program in Canada: Labour Mobility in the 21st Century

Sponsored by SAR President’s Council, The Annenberg Foundation, and Dobkin Family Foundation

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