High skilled professional immigration in the United States is at once highly desired and highly contested by government leaders. Policy makers recognize the need for highly skilled labor, particularly in the areas of engineering and computer science, to ensure that the U.S. leads the world in technological innovation. However, the workings of the immigration system are complex, bureaucratic and opaque, leaving immigrants feeling frustrated with long wait times and unexplained delays. In my fieldwork with professional immigrants in semiconductor manufacturing, conducted from Aug 2018 • June 2019, it was necessary to study the immigration system in order to understand how it impacts my participants’ decision making. My role as an anthropologist is complex. On the one hand, the real experts on this system are not policy experts or anthropologists, but the immigrants who navigate the system. Their lives depend upon figuring out the hidden rules; their experience of uncertainty creates a sense of urgency in understanding the inner workings of the black box. I have relied on their expertise to help me understand how the immigration system actually operates, as opposed to how it is supposed to operate. On the other hand, immigrants’ singularity of focus on their own ethnic, religious, and national groupings leads to a certain narrowness of vision, to which an anthropologist can add perspective and context. I argue that part of our responsibility as anthropologists should be to provide a wider perspective on immigration reform along with gentle reminders to push for inclusive policies.
Next from AAA Annual Meeting 2021
Resettlement Mobilities: How the Refugee Well-being Project Promotes Social Inclusion of Refugees in the United States
AAA Annual Meeting 2021
18 November 2021