So far, 2020 has seen me focusing in on nonfiction books relating to politics and social issues. Following How Bernie Won and Where We Go From Here, my latest read is This Land is Our Land: An Immigrant’s Manifesto, by Suketu Mehta. It’s no secret that immigration is often (unfairly) attacked as something to fear or loath, masses especially decrying illegal immigrants and even refugees. Suketu Mehta’s new book dives into this tenuous topic, ultimately outlining why immigrants should be welcomed and celebrated.
This Land is Our Land is broken into four sections. The first describes the immigrant experience, spending extended time with specific examples of where and how people are divided. We see the US-Mexico border and the Spain-Morocco border; we see individuals and how they live in their new homes. Suketu praises immigrants as “ordinary heroes” who do everything they can to better the lives of those they left behind in their countries of origin.
Part II explores the myriad reasons people migrate from one country to another. A lot of this comes down to historical and ongoing colonialism, the ramifications of which have deprived nations of necessary resources and the ability to make an income after said resources have been exported. Much of our current migration is due to wars – many of which are caused by other nations. Finally, climate change may be today’s biggest driver of migration, as people’s homes become inhabitable.
Rich and powerful countries – the US, the UK, France, etc. – are in many ways the cause of most migration. If it weren’t for their meddling and destruction, there wouldn’t be as many people in search of the basic means to live. They’ve created refugees, whether through colonialism or war or harming the environment, and shouldn’t be surprised at the consequences.
Part III describes why immigrants are feared and disliked by so many. Unsurprisingly, it largely comes down to racism and xenophobia, as well as false narratives being propagated by those in power. As governments foster an “us vs. them” mentality, using migrants as the scapegoat, people develop an irrational fear of the “others” – nowadays, immigrants. In America, that fear is especially targeted at Latinos and Muslims, but in the past different groups suffered disproportionately and unfairly.
Finally, the last part of the book makes the argument we’ve been waiting for: why immigrants should be welcomed. Suketu shares valuable stats demonstrating the benefits immigrants bring to their new homes. They work hard, start businesses, improve communities, and even see a decrease in crime. He also explains why we owe it to immigrants to let them come to our countries. Indeed, after all the harm committed against other nations, the least those in power can do is pay them back.
Suketu Mehta draws on many real-life examples of immigrants, himself included. He moved from India to the United States when he was a teenager in the 1970s. His experiences help illustrate his points. However, he also shares numerous examples of conversations he had with immigrants around the world, as well as with people who are against immigration. Further, he cites abundant research and printed opinions on immigration, ranging from the 1800s through today. Some of it makes it obvious how wrong an anti-immigrant stance is; others highlight how immigrants truly are just people trying to make an honest living in a safe home.
The topic of immigration is a close one for me. My husband is an immigrant – originally from Peru – and many of the people I’m closest to are or have been immigrants. I myself lived in both Spain and Peru before moving back to the United States. I’m disgusted by the vitriol against immigrants, which has only gotten more toxic in the last several years. This Land is Our Land affirms the value of immigrants, the plight they suffer, and why they should be welcomed with kindness.
If you have any interest at all in immigration – whether you feel for or against it – Suketu Mehta’s This Land is Our Land is worth reading. He shares a wealth of information from all sides of the argument, presenting a balanced take on this current social issue.