According to the UN, the number of international migrants surpassed 270 million in 2019. This represents an increase of 51 million since 2010. Nearly half of all international migrants moved to one of 10 countries. 19% of the world’s total immigrant population lives in the United States. One of every seven international migrants is younger than 20 years old. What are the stories behind these statistics? What does the world think of immigrants? To start answering these questions, here are five essays about immigration:
At the time of this 2019 essay, Paul Salopek has been walking for seven years. In 2013, he started from an ancient fossil site north of Ethiopia. His plan? Cover 21,000 miles over ten years, retracing humankind’s walk out of Africa. While he’s walking through the past, his project is also timely. Numbers-wise, we’re living with the largest diaspora in human history. More than 1 billion people are on the move, both within their own countries and beyond borders. During his journey, Salopek covers climate change, technological innovation, mass migration, and more. Through essays, photographs, audio, and video, he creates a vivid tapestry of stories from people rarely heard from. This essay is a great introduction to Salopek’s “slow journalism.” You can find more at OutofEdenWalk.org.
Journalist and writer Paul Salopek is a two-time Pulitzer Prize winner. He has reported for publications like The Atlantic and National Geographic Magazine. John Stanmeyer, who took the photos for this essay, is an Emmy-nominated filmmaker and photographer.
Author Mohsin Hamid was born in Pakistan and educated in the US. He lives in the UK. In this essay, he explains how he wishes for “a world without borders.” He believes the right to migrate (which includes emigration and immigration) is as vital as other human rights, like freedom of expression. People have always moved, crossing borders and sharing cultures. Humans are also migrants in that simply by living, we move through time. Unfortunately, this human right has been denied all over the world. Hamid looks forward to a day when migration is respected and welcomed.
Mohsin Hamid is the author of several books, including Discontent and Its Civilizations: Dispatches from Lahore, New York, and London. He writes both fiction and nonfiction.
Young and brilliant, Victor Santos is the founder of Airfox, a Boston-based tech startup. On the surface, Santos is living the American Dream. In this essay in the Boston Globe, he describes that for the past 10 years, he’s worried about ICE taking him away. He’s an undocumented immigrant dependent on DACA. Santos briefly describes his experience growing up in the US, working through college, and getting opportunities because of DACA. Following the publication of this piece, the Supreme Court ruled that the Trump administration cannot immediately end DACA. For now, Santos and the other hundreds of thousands of Dreamers are protected.
Victor Santos is the founder and CEO of Airfox, a loan app that uses mobile data to estimate credit risk. He was on the list of MIT Technology Review in Spanish’s Innovators Under 35 Latin America 2018.
Vargas opens this essay describing how, at 12-years old, he left the Philippines for the US in 1993. At 16, while going to get his driver’s permit, he was told his green card was fake. He realized he was undocumented. In this essay from 2011, partially inspired by four students who walked from Miami to Washington to lobby for the DREAM Act, he spoke out. The essay describes Vargas’ life and career in America, navigating the system with his secret. It’s a vivid, personal look at Vargas’ experience of “hiding” in plain sight and an act of courage as he owns his story.
Jose Antonio Vargas is a former reporter for the Washington Post. He shared a Pulitzer Prize for coverage of the Virginia Tech shooting. He is also a filmmaker, writer, and immigrant rights activist. He founded Define American, a nonprofit that strives for dialogue about immigration, in 2011.
“A Young Immigrant Has Mental Illness, And That’s Raising His Risk of Being Deported” – Christine Herman
Immigrants, especially undocumented immigrants, deal with a variety of challenges. One of them is the mental health care system. Those with untreated mental illnesses are at higher risk of getting in trouble with the law. When the person who is mentally ill is also undocumented, things get even more complicated. Deportation to a country with an even worse mental healthcare system could be a death sentence. This story from NPR is about a specific family, but it highlights issues that affect many.
Christine Herman is Ph.D. chemist and award-winning audio journalist. She’s a 2018-2019 recipient of a Rosalyn Carter fellowship for mental health journalism.