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Introduction to the special issue on international migration in the Americas.

With this special issue on international migration in the Americas, the Canadian Journal of Latin and Caribbean Studies presents some of the most recent and insightful work currently produced in this field. Beginning with one historical and two contemporary articles that take up the question of public policy on immigration and immigrant rights in Canada and the United States, the collection moves on to explore the lived experience of Latin American and Caribbean immigrants in the two countries, as well as the impact of out-migration on the sending communities and societies.

This volume is part of an ongoing effort to reframe the geographic and conceptual underpinnings of area studies scholarship. (2) It also seeks to push the northern border of migration studies further north. The collection of articles reflects our interest in broadening the scope of discussions of existing area and migration studies in two ways: by including Latin American and Caribbean diasporas or transnationalized populations throughout the Americas in the scope of area studies, and by addressing Canada in discussions of Latin American and Caribbean migrations.

International migration from Latin American and Caribbean countries to the United States is well documented and analyzed. However, although there are established Spanish-speaking Caribbean and West Indian communities in Canada, and a growing Latin American presence as well, Canada rarely enters into discussions of migration from the region.

Countries in Latin America and the Caribbean have a different economic, historical, political, and migratory relationship to the United States than they do to Canada. Similarly, the United States and Canada provide very different contexts of reception for Latin American and Caribbean migrants. As a result, it is not surprising that migrants from Latin America and the Caribbean may have distinct experiences in the two countries, and that their presence is expressed in different ways in various arenas, for example, in popular culture, labour markets, academia, or politics. What is perhaps somewhat surprising is that there is relatively little comparative research that investigates the effect of the different contexts of reception on the incorporation and transnational practices of specific Latin American and Caribbean national-origin, ethnic, or racialized groups in Canada and the United States. For this reason we briefly outline some key differences in the two receiving countries to provide contextual information for readers more familiar with one or the other country.

Most of us are aware of the long history of United States military intervention, foreign investment, and trade in the Americas that contributed to the enduring construction of the region as part of the United States' backyard. Although Canada also has important trade relations with countries such as Mexico, it has played a somewhat different geopolitical role in the region. At the risk of oversimplifying, Canada has ranged from being--at one end of the continuum--a more or less active ally of revolutionary regimes and supporter of organizations and governments that were not supported by the United States, to--at the other extreme--an ineffectual or non-existent political entity. Of course, it has also played intermediate positions as a NAFTA trading partner, and has finally emerged to claim an important role in the Organization of American States.

The different geopolitical and historical relationships between the Latin American and Caribbean region and the United States and Canada is evident in the different migration patterns from the region to these two countries. These patterns, in turn, translate into very different ways in which the Latin American and Caribbean presence is made visible in the two countries. Data on the foreign-born from the most recent census in each country illustrate the current and historical trends. Both are known as countries of immigration. Canada has a higher proportion of foreign-born compared to the United States (19% versus 11%, respectively), although the larger total population in the United States means that the number of foreign-born is much higher in the United States (31.1 million) than in Canada (5.6 million) (Migration Policy Institute [MPI] 2004). In 2001, in the United States, over half of the foreign-born population came from the Americas, mainly Mexico, Cuba, Canada, and El Salvador, while 16% of the foreign-born came from Europe. Mexico alone accounted for 29.5% of the foreign-born in the United States (MPI 2004). In contrast, in Canada, European immigrants accounted for the highest share of the foreign-born, at 41%, while the Americas, including the United States, accounted for 16% (MPI 2004). These numbers mean that in the United States, people from the Caribbean tend to be subsumed into large African American and smaller South Asian communities, while Latin Americans have become the largest minority. In Canada, people born in Latin American or the Caribbean represent a much smaller proportion of the population. As a result, migrants from the region enter a context with a large number of sociopolitical minority groups, where Asians are the largest non-European pan-ethnic minority group.

Labour markets in a number of sectors in the United States depend on low- or lower-waged racialized workers from Latin America (and other regions of the global south). This dependence on cheaper imported labour is clear, whether a worker is an undocumented nanny, gardener, or factory worker, or a documented high-tech engineer. In the southwest, eastern seaboard, and a growing number of midwestern and southern states, Anglo residents have long been able to expect their food to be cooked and served, their cars to be washed, and their children minded by Latinos. Now they can buy computers whose software has been written by Latinos and South Asians in Silicon Valley as well as in India.

Canada has a different history of organized labour and immigration policies. The organized labour sector has been larger and quite strong, and immigration policies since the 1970s have selected educated immigrants and investors. At the same time, unlike the United States, Canada does not share a border with a neighbour whose wages and employment outlook are so much worse than its own. These differences have led many to assume that Canada does not have a vast supply of cheap, vulnerable, undocumented labour. However, both common knowledge and research tell us that older and less educated immigrants, and recent and highly educated immigrants whose credentials have not been recognized in Canada, tend to fill secondary labour market jobs or must struggle to develop self-employment opportunities that do not necessarily improve their economic condition.

The challenge in the contemporary context of ongoing economic and regulatory integration is to understand better the experiences of migrants, non-migrants in sending countries, and non-migrants in receiving countries, as population movements continue to transform the societies touched by transnational flows of people, ideas, capital, symbols, material culture, and popular cultural forms. As a number of scholars have pointed out, globalization has not led to the polar outcomes predicted toward the end of the twentieth century. We are witnessing a complicated array of sharpening of specific (not to say local) identities, as well as conjunctural expressions of pan-ethnic or other collective identities. Nation-states have not disappeared, but the roles of states are undergoing change. Those who move remain connected to more or less imagined homelands, and they become rooted in more or less hospitable places they may come to call home. Mexicans in Mexico, Jamaicans in Jamaica, or Dominicans in the Dominican Republic are increasingly connected to relatives and friends in the United States as well as Canada.

This journal issue brings together work on Latin American and Caribbean migrations to the United States and Canada. Five of the articles originated as presentations at York University's Centre for Research on Latin America and the Caribbean (CERLAC) annual workshop. (3) Held in September 2003, this event was dedicated to "International Migration in the Americas: Emerging Issues," (4) and was designed to build on the efforts of CERLAC members and others in the York community to address international migration from this more comparative perspective. In this special issue of CJLACS we continue that project by including research originally presented at the workshop as well as other work that we solicited from scholars who were not able to join us at the workshop in September. Although some of the contributions focus on Latin American or Caribbean migration to Canada, we hope that the issue as a whole will establish opportunities for dialogue among scholars who study transnational flows between various Latin American and Caribbean regions and Canada and the United States as two "receiving" contexts.

In closing we wish to thank the 17 authors who have been willing, and even eager, to engage in these discussions with us. We also wish to acknowledge the workshop participants for their lively questions and debates, and the organizations whose funding made it possible to hold the workshop. (5) Special thanks must go to Viviana Patroni and Marshall Beck, who led in organizing and coordinating all aspects of the workshop.


(1.) I am grateful to Judy Hellman for inviting me to join her as co-editor of this special issue. It was a pleasure to work with and learn from such a dedicated colleague.

(2.) The reframing of area studies has been going on for some time in the United States as well as Canada. An earlier example of this effort at York University was the 7-8 March 2003 workshop on the "The Politics of Transnational Ties: Implications for Communities, Research and Policy." This event was jointly organized by the York Centre for Asian Research and CERLAC. For additional information see the workshop report (Goldring, Henders, and Vandergeest 2003).

(3.) For further information on the CERLAC workshop, see Bohorquez and Spronk's report, and the CERLAC (2004) website.

(4.) FLACSO-Dominican Republic was a co-sponsor of the workshop. Viviana Patroni, the outgoing (and now returned) Director of CERLAC, and Marshall Beck, the Centre's Administrator, put an enormous amount of work into organizing the workshop and then re-organizing the event in the wake of a cancellation provoked by the World Health Organization ban on travel to Toronto during the SARS outbreak in May 2003. Luin Goldring, Judy Hellman, Kamala Kempadoo, and Alan Simmons were the other members of the workshop organizing committee. Ruben Silie handled coordination at FLACSO.

(5.) Funding for the workshop was provided by the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), the Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRCC), and the Rockefeller Foundation. We are grateful to Kerry Max at CIDA and Ruben Puentes at the Rockefeller Foundation for their assistance with the process. Further internal funding from York University came from the Office for Research Administration, the Office of the Vice President for Research and Innovation, Stan Shapson, and the Division of Social Science.

Works Cited

Bohorquez, Paola, and Susan Spronk. 2004, March. International migration in the Americas: Emerging issues. Conference report. CERLAC Colloquia Papers Series. < MIGRATION>.

CERLAC. 2004. International migration in the Americas: Emerging issues. Conference held 19-20 September 2003. Conference web page: <http:// www.>.

Goldring, Luin, Susan Henders, and Peter Vandergeest. 2003. The politics of transnational ties: Implications for policy, research, and communities. Policy paper. Report submitted to the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade. <>.

Migration Policy Institute (MPI). 2004. Migration information source. Data tools section. < stock_region.cfm>.


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Author:Goldring, Luin; Hellman, Judith Adler
Publication:Canadian Journal of Latin American and Caribbean Studies
Date:Jan 1, 2004
Previous Article:Editor's foreword.
Next Article:Citizenship learning and political participation: the experience of Latin American immigrants in Canada.

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