Table of Contents
- Participant Description
- The Actual Interview
The United States (US) represents one of the largest recipients of immigrants in the world. Powerful globalization effects are encouraging the movement of people from rural areas in response to push and pull factors. For instance, effective transportation and instantaneous communication enables cheap and quick travel of immigrants, while remaining linked with their folks back home in ways that were unavailable to earlier generations of migrants. In this report, I conducted an interview of an immigrant who moved into the US to identify potential push and pull factors that influenced her movement, as well as the bridges and barriers that impacted the success of the interviewee’s migration.
The respondent was a 43-year old graduate with origins in Mumbai, India. She belongs to a family of three including herself and is comprised of her husband and a twelve-year old son. The interviewee initially came to the US with her husband in search of work in spite of not having a work permit. In India, she left behind her extended family living in the outskirts of Mumbai, a densely populated city in India. Despite being India’s largest city, Mumbai has a large population that is increasingly placing pressure on its natural resources. According to KC, Wurzer, Speringer and Lutz (2018), India is the seventh-largest nation by size yet the second-most populous country in the world with a population of 1.339 billion 2017. People leave this country due to the high levels of inequality experienced in the country. While the poor lead a life of extreme poverty, the rich lead a life of excesses. The participant’s migration to the US was to seek a working opportunity that would improve the living standards and conditions for her family.
The transition from her initial poor lifestyle she led in India to an even more challenging environment had its toll on the participant. Due to the lack of a work permit, her initial stay in the US was difficult and unpleasant. She had to depend on her husband for everything, denying her the independence to enjoy the environment in the new country. Compared to India’s best city, the US offers a much better place to live, but only for those who can afford. Living in Arlington, Virginia, the respondent faced significant challenges in meeting her daily needs despite being a graduate from India. Her husband had a job, but it was not well-paying since he worked as a courier in one of the local companies in Virginia. The situation for her improved when she managed to land an interview at an important American television channel and get a job as a content generator. The new job enabled her to resolve her financial situation. Furthermore, she managed to get new friends to improve her social life and an adequate salary to develop her family both in the US and back home. It was on the premise of these improvements that the respondent managed to settle and get a son to complete her family. Her new job made it possible for her to meet her family’s basic daily needs so that despite her husband’s poor job, the interviewee could still manage to provide what they were lacking. The respondent still holds fast to her Indian culture where she made sure her son could speak Hindi and her family always celebrate both traditional Indian and American culture and values. Currently, the interviewee is a manager for a transportation company in Northern Virginia, where she lives with her family.
In spite of moving to the US, the interviewee still retains a close connection with her extended family back in Mumbai. Her original reasons for migrating into the US was to find employment, which was not available for her in India despite her graduate degree. Getting a job in the US enabled her to finance the livelihoods of her family in Mumbai, which was enabled by improved communication technology. Through platforms such as Paypal and online bank transfers, the respondent could send the money she earned to her family. Furthermore, international video and conferencing calls allow her to keep in touch with them on a regular basis.
The respondent’s integration and assimilation into the US culture is occurring gradually and at a pace she dictates. It is her wish not to forget her origins, which is the reason she strived to ensure that her son could speak and understand Hindi language and culture. Effective transport channels between the US and India enable the interviewee to take her child to India so that he can witness his own grassroots and extended family. Moreover, smartphone communication allows the interviewee’s family to maintain regular contact with India, which is instrumental in reminding them of their real homes and reasons that drove them to the US.
The Actual Interview
The first place I came to upon my arrival into the US was an immigrant enclave that was just across the Hudson River near New York City. Most of the people there were immigrants or a child of one, which made me really worry since I began to wonder what would happen to me if things do not work out for me. In search of work, I found myself in East Rutherford, New Jersey looking for anything that would enable me to meet the needs of my husband and myself. Finally, my husband found work in Virginia as a courier within the city, providing me with some kind of foundation for me to find employment. Despite the new job, my husband could barely save anything for future use, which worried me because it would be difficult to even send anything back home if we could not meet our own basic needs.
While I never experienced racism, I must admit I experienced some form of culture shock. Where I come from, people try to help each other get through the day, even in a big city like Mumbai. The problem is just that resources are never enough. When I came to the US, not a single person lifted a finger to assist me, which really made my future look grim. I was lucky I did not to give up in my search since my degree earned me an interview after a long time of suffering and begging for work. I must admit, not even I expected that I would end up working as a content generator, which was a perfect fit for me then considering my knowledge around a computer. This job was my launching pad to where I am now, a manager of an entire department.
It has been a journey that has been full of trials, but am glad to have made it this far. Frankly, it was a decision that I made half-heartedly, considering that I had never been out of Mumbai let alone India. Despite the fear I had of the new environment to which I was coming, I was also excited due to the new experiences and memories I would make. It was exhilarating for me because I thought I was going to a land of opportunities and the many things I had heard about the “American Dream.” For my family, however, the tension and stress were high. I had to calm them down and promise them that things will not change just because I was going to the US. I also told them I was not going alone since it was a decision made by my husband and I to try our chances in a new place. My parents tried to talk me out of it, but we were not going to allow ourselves to settle for a simple life. The opportunity we had received to go to the US was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that was sponsored by one of my relatives that worked as a merchant across India and US trade routes. In short, the transition was difficult for my family and myself due to the distance that I had to put between us just to get a better life.
The main problem my husband and I faced involved the struggles and challenges upon our arrival. Once my relative dropped us off, we were alone. Without any job, we had to sleep hungry most of the nights just to have something for the next day. My husband and I had exhausted all the money we had on us on arrival by the end of the first month. I recall my husband sacrificing a lot to ensure that I had to fare to get to interviews each day, but all was in vain, especially during the first year. The issue was getting my Indian-based degree to be recognized in the US. In most of the interviews I attended, I was turned away immediately once the employer saw my certifications. It was quite challenging because I never got the opportunity to even demonstrate my skills and abilities. The people in those organizations had stereotypes that since I was an immigrant from a less-developed country, I could not measure up to the skills needed for the job. I moved through several towns just to get an opportunity to showcase what I can do. It was until the end of 2005 that I got an interview that was more practical. Despite being from India, the employer was impressed by my skills around a laptop and I was hired immediately.
I still feel connected to my previous home in India. The reason is that over half of my life has been in Mumbai and these experiences are valuable since they make me who I am today. I left Mumbai in search of something better that I could not find back home, but that does not mean that I do not like it in Mumbai. If I could get the employment I needed in Mumbai, I would have stayed there. I maintain this connection by going home any chance I get. I also made sure that my son can speak Hindi and was aware of the cultural traditions my people celebrate. I make sure that he goes home for most of the holidays to make him more attuned to what being an Indian means. I do not have to worry about racism nowadays, but am always keen to ensure that my child fits in both societies.
I have a son that I got after becoming financially stable. I thought it wise to avoid getting a child before I could properly provide for him. I also have an extended family back in Mumbai for who I am responsible. My husband and I have to send money to take care of our parents and cater to their needs in Mumbai.
The interviewee’s narrative reveal push and pull factors that drove her to move to the US from her home in India. A push factor evident from the interview is the poverty in which her family lived. In spite of living in India’s largest city, the family did not have the resources to live above the poverty line. When the offer to go the US by a relative came, the respondent jumped at the chance even when she was not completely sure. Another push factor was the need for employment, considering that the interview was a graduate from a university located in Mumbai.
Having this certification has not been useful to her in India, which forced her to leave for the US with the hope that she will get considered. Being a woman could be one of the reasons getting employment in India was challenging for the respondent. Roy (2015) reveals that even though India is a democracy where women’s rights are upheld, the country suffers from the effects of its traditional patriarchal system where women are still considered inferior to their male counterparts. That means that for a woman to get employment in India is very challenging. The participant’s move to the US was probably a move to overcome this limitation, following the fact that the US is widely known for its ability to uphold the freedom of its citizens, both male and female. True to her belief, she managed to get employment with her Indian certification and despite her female self.
A pull factor evident in the interviewee’s responses was the attractiveness of the US as a land of opportunity. The respondent and her husband viewed the US as the means through which they would escape poverty in Mumbai. This perception of the destination is one of the factors that pulled the interviewee to migrate even though she had no travel experience. By travelling to the US, the respondent would have the opportunity to start a new life away from the poverty of India. Another pull factor concerns the unique freedom that women have in the US, which is unlike India where women face significant social constraints. As a graduate degree holder and a skilled computer user, the participant must have learned about many things about the US and its long history. That means she expected that she would have more freedom to live a fulfilling life in the US compared to India. This decision worked in her favor since she managed to get employment in the US after a shorter time compared to the years she had spent searching in India.
The interview also experienced significant barriers that hindered her progress and integration into the US society. Firstly, her Indian graduate certification (at the time) was not easily recognized in the US. For this reason, getting employment was almost impossible as she would get turned away immediately before even demonstrating her abilities. Another barrier was the overall perceptions and attitudes she received from potential employers, not only because she was female but also an immigrant. In most of the places she went for interviews, the management perceived her as incapable of conforming to the expectations of a US-based job.
This barrier made it difficult for her to get any job in her first year in the US, dimming her prospects for the future. On the other hand, she also experienced some bridges that ensured her survival and integration into the new environment. The main bridge was the freedom to operate in the US despite being an immigrant. Most countries have tight regulations for immigration, but the US offered a much more receptive environment. Without her permit, the interviewee was able to survive in the country while searching for employment. Another bridge was the high level of skills she had, especially when it came to using a computer. It was due to her ability that she became a content generator for a US-based company, creating her path to a leadership position.
The interview reveals that immigrants face numerous pull and push factors that determine where they end up in the long run. Furthermore, bridges and barriers to their successful integration and assimilation are also evident in this particular case. In addressing issues pertaining to immigration, it is important to ensure that all these factors are considered to provide a more accurate image of the situation and circumstances immigrants experience.
- KC, S., Wurzer, M., Speringer, M., & Lutz, W. (2018). Future population and human capital in heterogeneous India. Proceedings of The National Academy of Sciences, 115(33), 8328-8333. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1722359115
- Roy, S. (2015). Empowering women? Inheritance rights, female education and dowry payments in India. Journal of Development Economics, 114, 233-251. doi: 10.1016/j.jdeveco.2014.12.010