“Hey, I know that song.” Sitting on this balcony, overlooking the Mediterranean and the town below, a wide array of music blares from somewhere in the near distance. First, it was “Gangnam Style,” then “Turn The Beat Around,” followed by “Ai Se Tu Pego”. This, in a sense, describes the city of Marseille and, oddly enough, reminds me of home.
Throughout our time here, I can’t help but make connections to similar situations and issues in the U.S. While discussing the process of migrating to France from northern Africa (with Dr. Carl Jubran of IAU), specifically, Algeria, Morocco, and Tunisia, I cannot help but think of the thousands of Mexicans and central Americans who attempt a similar journey to America. In France, and other European countries, there are border patrol who attempt to restrict illegal migration at all cost. Of course, at times they are unsuccessful. An example demonstrating this lack of success is through what is called the “wet feet, dry feet” policy. If a migrant is caught with wet feet (still in the water), they are sent back to their country of origin. If they are caught on land, they are usually allowed to stay. However, if they are allowed to stay that doesn’t mean they immediately gain freedom and a path to citizenship. Instead, many are held in border custody for up to several months, especially young, unaccompanied minors. This explicitly reminds me of many of my own students’ stories of coming to the U.S.
Furthermore, there exists a stereotype about where immigrant populations work. Throughout the U.S. (most noticeably for me, Kansas City), Latinos work in construction (specifically, roofing) and work as building cleaners. This similarity carries over the Atlantic to Europe, and specifically France, where the Portuguese clean houses and work in construction or the Metro. Additionally, when it comes to discrimination against immigrants in each location there exists the commonality of “immigrants taking our jobs.” This phenomenon exists in both locations, with a similar disdain for immigrant labor; it is safe to say, however, that those complaining about lost job opportunities in each location are the same people who would complain about and not accept a job scrubbing toilets or working 12+ hours a day in manual labor.
Prior to my departure for this trip, I wouldn’t have guessed there would be so many similarities between north African immigrants in southern France and Hispanic immigrants in Kansas City, Missouri. This perspective, however, has shifted the way I view certain portions of this experience. In a sense, there seems to be a universal story of immigration that needs to be dissected at a deeper and more microscopic level to uncover the truth about the uncomfortability of diversity, not only within our country but the world abroad.