The immigration debate is the epitome of a sick public conversation. A space full of noise and prejudice; excessive in its forms and limited in its contents; uninformed, polarizing and, too often, a liar. Those of us who say that immigration is an essentially positive phenomenon blame this situation on those who do not share our opinion, starting with the extreme right. But what about us, the “good guys”? What responsibility do we have in perpetuating a story that reduces human mobility to pathological categories?
This is one of the questions that the report asks Migratory narratives of lovepresented recently by the Fundación porCausa. In its dissection of the public discourse on human mobility, the study points to some clues as to what could work better and worse when it comes to transforming the prevailing narrative. And those of my parish did not come out very well.
The main reproach is simple: when the immigrant is treated as a victim, a vertical and estrangement relationship is established with that person. To use evangelical language, charity replaces compassion, which would be the basic exercise of empathy and equality.
This is the framework that is repeated day after day in the news, the NGO campaigns or the political speeches of the left: the obsession with the tragedy of the southern border, the praise of the white savior hero, the certainty that the migrant must be rescued from his situation, the ignorance of the political agency of that individual. All of these factors – replicating the humanitarian and development aid narrative, and exuding a pseudo-colonial fragrance – create an unbridgeable gap between they Y us.
Do you know what would help change the migration narrative the most? That people like me speak less and the space is occupied by those who can speak in the first person
As you remember byCause citing a report of the BRIDGES project, the humanitarian narrative has been used for decades to justify the most regressive policies. In his self-story, the EU governments do not seal the borders out of malice or xenophobia, but to protect the “poor migrants” from the trafficking mafias. In the same way, they buy the collaboration of the most despicable regimes to prevent these “poor individuals” from facing the risks of a migratory route (they say nothing about the risks of staying).
In this narrative framework perhaps migrations are not a threatbut they sure are a trouble that should be resolved or avoided, never stimulated. Therefore, says the report, what looks like love is not so much.
Part of the solution to this challenge lies in our ability to broaden the topics of conversation. It is true that many migrants are victims of a humanitarian tragedy that we must bear in mind. But it is also true that many more are the protagonists of daily stories of overcoming, integration and normalcy that are rarely told. That immigrants contribute with their work to underpin the well-being of our societies. Who share our same aspirations and fears. In short, some commit crimes and others defraud the Treasury. We are so much alike that sometimes we forget that we are all migrants, because we are all the result of a movement –having crossed a border or not is a pure coincidence– and we all reserve the right to play that card when circumstances require it. .
In part, the solution lies in expanding the diversity of those we talk to. Do you know what would help change the migration narrative the most? That people like me speak less and the space is occupied by those who can speak in the first person.