Suketu Mehta’s Manifesto: This Land is Our Land

Krzysztof Iwanek in The Diplomat:

Suketu Mehta traveled the same route five times. As a child, he settled with his family, originally from Gujarat in India, in the United States. As an adult, he returned to India, where he lived in Mumbai (Bombay) for two and a half years and wrote a book about the city. Titled Maximum City: Bombay Lost and Found and published in 2004, it was a highly acclaimed work that I can’t recommend enough. Mehta later returned to the United States, only to retrace his footsteps years later – but this time in his reminisces and feelings – in a new book, where he returns to the memories of his family voyage, to the story of how they, like so many others, moved to America, the promised land of generations of migrants. The second part of the title of Mehta’s new work says it all — This Land is Our Land: An Immigrant’s Manifesto. It is a powerful defense of people’s right to migrate, a song of praise for multiculturalism, and a strong critique of Washington’s policies toward immigrants and refugees under President Donald Trump. The author took pains to travel and collect various stories of migration – he took these pains quite literally, as a large part of the book is a cataloging of sorrows that people shared with him. Focusing mainly on the United States as a destination country, he provides statistics and cases to show where and how migration policies are failing. Mehta wrestles with the exorbitant fears of the “Other,” with the myth that the influx of migrants will sweep the country away.

He also reminds us of the link – historical and moral – between migration and colonialism. Mehta’s grandfather was once asked by a British man what he was he doing in the United Kingdom, to which the Indian man replied: “We are the creditors. You took all our wealth [in the colonial period]… Now we have come to collect.” This is also Mehta’s standpoint. Not only does he believe that the West has a moral obligation to accept people from countries it had once ruled or influenced, but he thinks this responsibility comes also from the West’s (mainly the United States’) current military engagements in countries like Iraq. “Before you ask other people to respect the borders of the West, ask yourself if the West has ever respected anybody else’s border,” he remarks. And then there are the practical arguments: Developed countries need migrants for demographic and economic reasons.

More here.