Having spent the past week in the West Java Hills, Indonesia, a slight detour on my way home to Canada from Quezon City, I have had plenty of time to reflect on my internship in the Philippines. This reflection time has allowed me to think open-mindedly, yet critically, about the country in which I spent the past six months, and especially about the growing phenomenon of migration around the world.
Thinking specifically of in-bound migration in the North American context, there have been attitudes of welcoming acceptance by some, and intolerance and prejudice from others. It is all too easy for those who are pro-immigration to criticize those with a negative outlook on the matter, or brush them off as “ignorant” or “racists”. But does this attitude not contribute to fostering its own “us versus them” mentality? The open-minded, hospitable Canadian (or North American in general) and the immigrants they so wholeheartedly welcome, versus their unenlightened, bigoted counterparts?
While I do not dispute the importance of equality and fair treatment in migration, I think that the attitude taken towards those who do not share this belief needs to change. Many of us seem to find it easy, and sometimes almost noble, to be open-minded towards those who are new and different in obvious ways, but struggle to extend that same mindset when dealing with our neighbors, family members, or even strangers, whose opinions are at odds with our own. It is easy to use the reasoning of “cultural differences” to explain things that we may inherently disagree with or not understand. In contrast, it is much harder to offer that same open-mindedness to those who we believe must share our same “Canadian values”. Recognizing the reasons why immigration has become such a controversial and volatile topic is an essential step towards removing the negative connotations the word immigration brings. Instead of dismissing outright alternative viewpoints as bigotry and racism, discussing the views of those who differ from our own will go along way towards fostering a more open attitude towards immigration.
In conversations and debates surrounding the hot topic of immigration, rather than judging those who do not share the same beliefs, we must ask ourselves: Why? Why does this person disagree? Where does this belief stem from?
When asking these questions, I think one will find that a great dealof these negative opinions regarding immigrants and immigration may stem from feelings of insecurity and being discounted. Rather than brushing off these conversations defending immigration as being beneath us or pointless, by approaching those with whom we disagree with the same tolerance and respect as those who we are defending, discussions have the potential to become impactful conversations, rather than dissolving into defensive arguments. I strongly believe that this type of education and open discussion is the only way of truly dismantling all “us versus them” mentalities and embracing (or at least accepting) immigration and the benefits it can bring to our societies. In a time where some are actively seeking to close their borders, others may have to open their minds to this perspective to bring about this acceptance of immigration.