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Human Migration

Project Manager:

Migration strikes at the very core of what it means to be “American,” for our history is a story of human migrations. It includes the original migrations of native Americans, the much later migration of the Pilgrims, the colonization process, the slave trade, the waves upon waves of European and Asian immigrants to the United States, ongoing industrialization, urbanization, suburbanization, the seasonal movements of laborers and retirees, migration due to globalization and natural disasters such as Katrina, and the emigration of Americans to other countries. Recent developments in communication, manufacturing, information technology, and transportation has only made human migration easier, more affordable, and more frequent.

Photo by Baker County Tourism / CC BY-ND

But regardless of whether we move close or far, human migration affects us on many different levels. It raises a large number of public policy questions and concerns about the effects that human migration might have upon individuals, groups, institutions, and society at large.

This discussion guide, and the six policy possibilities, it presents invites us to explore and consider many foundational questions and concerns about migration and what it means for our society and our future, including–

  • What are the forces that drive it?
  • How might migration and the conflicts that arise from it affect our democracy?
  • And how might these conflicts be used or exploited for other political ends?

The six policy possibilities in this discussion guide: 

A.  Put Security First
B.  Privilege Human Rights & Humanitarian Needs
C.  Promote Assimilation Into Local Communities
D.  Put the Economy First
E.  Keep Families Together
F.  Embrace Freedom of Movement 

Additional questions that spurred discussion during the development of this guide include the following: 

What could human migration mean? What are the forces that drive it? What societal goals and public policies might pertain to it? What are its different dimensions and how might these different dimensions conflict with each other? How might human migration and the conflicts that arise from it affect the ability of democracy to achieve its goals? Might immigration and emigration, as special examples of human migration, pose special threats to democracy? And if so, what are they? What concerns might Americans have about human migration? How might our public policies address these concerns? What conceptual policy possibilities might we develop that might affect the future of human migration?

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