Monthly Archives: November 2009

A Get-Tough Approach to Immigration Reform

Obama and the Dems are gearing up to make a run at immigration reform. Wary of being seen as softies, they will be hammering away on a theme of toughness. More in my L.A. Times op-ed piece:,0,5674170.story


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Back to Iraq?

During research for my book about global migration, I became increasingly familiar with the term “reverse migration.” The most intense part of the research phase took place as the global economy was plummeting.  As I traveled around, I met more and more migrants who were having second thoughts about leaving home.  This was particularly true in Ireland, where Poles had migrated to take advantage of what was left of the “Celtic Tiger’s” economic roar.  But as the tiger turned into more of a whimpering pussycat, many Poles returned to Poland and a country that was actually experiencing economic growth — modest, but growth nonetheless.

The last place I expected to hear more about “reverse migration” was among Iraqi refugees.  It had been one thing for labor migrants to consider returning home, but I did not expect in speaking to Iraqis, who had fled war and torture, to hear them also entertain the idea of going back.  But that’s what I found in a recent reporting trip to El Cajon, near San Diego, a heart of the Iraqi expat community in the U.S.  People told me that the job prospects were so bad, a number of refugees had already gone back to the Middle East — most not to Iraq, but to Syria and Egypt and Jordan.  But one man did surprise me.  He said before leaving Iraq, he had been physically abused by insurgents, angered that he had worked with the Americans.  But nothing was panning out for him in California, and to the great dismay of his family, he was seriously contemplating returning to Baghdad.  He obviously figured the risk of danger there was easier to take than the possibility of failure here.  What a dilemma!  But what do you do if the grass that is supposed to be greener turns out to be parched and brown?

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