The Conflict of a New Home: African Migrants and the Push/Pull Factors during Acculturation

Linn Pitts spent a decade in law enforcement prior to transitioning into teaching on a university level.  He presently teaches as an Assistant Professor in the Social Science Department at Shorter University.  He can be found on Twitter @Professor_Pitts and is writing a dissertation on gatekeepers in Countering Violent Extremism programs in the United States.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


Title: The Conflict of a New Home: African Migrants and the Push/Pull Factors during Acculturation

Date Originally Written:  February 13, 2018.

Date Originally Published:  May 28, 2018.

Summary:  Whether migrant has voluntarily relocated to the US from a country in turmoil or a refugee being resettled to the US, the individual may still face factors that pull them towards the conflict of their homeland and may push them from full acculturation in their new society.

Text:  While it is important for the U.S. to have good foreign policies that are able to help address turmoil in African countries, equally important is the posture taken by entities in the U.S. towards migrants that may have moved or been displaced. According to Boyle and Ali [1] the general theories of migration include three broad categories concerning acculturation (the process of social, psychological, and cultural change that stems from blending between cultures) at the end of the migrant’s journey. The categories include group dynamics, reception of the new society, and the nature of the exit from their home country. All of these categories serve as excellent assessment points for developing an understanding of the issues faced by migrants. For the purposes of this assessment, the primary focus is group dynamics and the reception of a new society. If policy makers understand the nuances of group dynamics and the reception possibilities of a new society, they will be better prepared to provide good governance.

Group dynamics include cultural aspects and family dynamics illustrated by interactions within extended families and communities. These group dynamics can be problematic as Boyle and Ali explain as family structures are impacted by what U.S. law has deemed a family such as the exclusion of polygamy, the allowance of only nuclear family members to migrate as a group, and the lack of elder support in their transplanted home. Boyle and Ali further indicate that conflicts from their home countries have already broken some families apart. Each migratory situation will vary depending on the state of being a migrant or a refugee as noted by Bigelow [2]. Boyle and Ali further specified that the loss of extended family members severely impact the migrant families such as limiting child care and a lack of traditional family roles. In seeking to properly conceptualize these aspects, a purposeful interview was conducted with a migrant. In personal communications with Mia (pseudonym), she noted her family moved to the U.S. when she was approximately eight years of age and she is now 21 years of age. The relocation to the U.S. was prompted by tribal conflicts that limited opportunities in her home country in Central Africa. She confirmed that since arriving in the U.S., the lack of extended family was problematic, especially regarding the roles her parents once held in their home country. In general, these issues would categorically further migrant reliance on state resources such as outside parties to resolve disputes and the social service programs.

The reception of the new society as noted by Boyle and Ali entails a period of adaptation and sometimes it is a struggle due to the removal of family support. Whereas dependence on social service programs may provide time for adaptation and development of social capital, it may not completely replace the extended family. Mia stated she found it difficult to acculturate due to bullying, issues with racial identity, and struggles adapting academically primarily based on differences in English, a point supported by Bigelow. Mia was bullied by African-American children in part due to misperceptions, “African-Americans view (sic) Africans as savages, uneducated, and poor,” Mia remarked. Continuing, she said “often time I do not see myself as black but as African.” It is an interesting concept supported by the work of Bigelow revealing migrant parents of Somali youth were concerned about the perceptions of the interactions with African-American children, especially if their children are viewed as unruly. Mia noted the parental views had merit concerning an understanding of the difficult transitions to life in the United States. While Central African and Horn of African nations are distinct entities in different regions of the Africa, Mia described the cultural contexts as “that’s just African,” She found friendship with children who had relocated from Kenya and Nigeria. Bigelow noted that the migrant children are living in two worlds, their world at home and their world at school. This two-world construct was also supported by Zhou [3] in a discussion of cultural identity and the impact on children of migrants.

Another point of reception in a new society deals with the aspects of understanding local laws during a period of acculturation. The transition can be aided by groups and religious organizations seeking to aid in the transition to the U.S. While recent arrests and later convictions of Minnesota-based Somalis seeking to join the Islamic State captured headlines, consider efforts of municipal agencies in Minnesota [4] and Clarkston, Georgia located on the outskirts metro-Atlanta. According to David (personal communications), a missionary in Clarkston, the city was chosen to be a refugee resettlement area in the 1990s. He noted the area was a prime location for refugee resettlement due to the high degree of apartment complexes (near 80%), featured a low-cost of living, it was close proximity to a major airport, and it had a public transit available to Atlanta. Moreover, he detailed that Time Magazine deemed this portion of Clarkston as the most diverse square mile in the U.S. As an example, approximately 100 languages were spoken at Indian Creek Elementary School in Clarkston. When asked about the Somali population, David stated it was previously the largest migrant population in Clarkston but population dynamics recently shifted due to the Myanmar Crisis. Clarkston is a success because people who come to the U.S. as a result of U.S. asylum and refugee resettlement programs not only have a place to settle, but that place has many features which, according to Salehyan and Gleditsch [5], can help minimize tensions during acculturation. Clarkston, through its ability to make acculturation smoother, allows grievances to be addressed early so they do not lead migrants down extremist pathways.

Regarding grievances and tensions, Somalis, like most inhabitants of developing countries, have a legacy of distrust with the police [6] an aspect intensified by recent efforts of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials [7]. Boyle and Ali found Somali men feel persecuted in the United States by law enforcement mainly due to enforcement of laws such as domestic violence. Whereas in Somalia, the family elder may intervene to address problems, due to aforementioned issues the elders are not present. Law enforcement officers have a great deal of discretion in their daily activities, unless arrest is mandated by statute such as domestic violence. Even if law enforcement acts in good faith with the intent of upholding the law, issues could still arise. Weine, Eisenman, Kinsler, Glik, and Polutnik [8] identified that law enforcement may create resentment and ultimately diminish cooperation from communities if these communities are policed in a way seen as culturally incompatible. Weine, Eisenman, Kinsler, Glik, and Polutnik suggested a community health approach. This approach was indirectly supported by Boyle and Ali in their examination and later assessed by Cummings, Kamaboakai, Kapil, and Stone. In closing, while generous U.S. policies enable migrants to come to the U.S., unless the location where they finally arrive is prepared to receive them, and local capabilities are ready to provide close and continuing support during acculturation, the migrant will likely continue to face a friction-filled existence. This existence may make the migrant feel pulled back home and simultaneously pushed into a new society which they do not understand.


Endnotes:

[1] Boyle, E.H., & Ali, A. (2010). Culture, structure, and the refugee experience in Somali immigrant family transformation. International Migration, 48(1), 47-79.

[2] Bigelow, M. (2010). Mogadishu on the Mississippi: Language, racialized identity, and education in a new land. New York: Wiley-Blackwell.

[3] Zhou, M. (2003). Growing Up American: The challenge confronting immigrant children and children of immigrants. Annual Review of Sociology. 23. 63-95. 10.1146/annurev.soc.23.1.63.

[4] Cumings, P., Kamaboakai, E. T., Kapil, A., & Stone, C. (2016). A Growing Community: Helping Grand Forks increase inclusion of new Americans.

[5] Salehyan, I., & Gleditsch, K. S. (2006). Refugees and the spread of civil war. International Organization, 60, 335-366.

[6] Haugen, G. A., & Boutros, V. (2015). The locust effect: Why the end of poverty requires the end of violence. Oxford University Press.

[7] Redmond, J. (2017, April 13). Immigration arrests target Somalis in Atlanta area. Atlanta Journal Constitutional. Retrieved from https://www.ajc.com/news/immigration-arrests-target-somalis-atlanta-area/uYatzrGTOkEGWuwocYmReJ/

[8] Weine, S., Eisenman, D. P., Kinsler, J., Glik, D. C., & Polutnik, C. (2017). Addressing violent extremism as public health policy and practice. Behavioral sciences of terrorism and political aggression, 9(3), 208-221.

Africa Assessment Papers Linn Pitts Migrants United States

Blurred lines: Options for Security & Immigration in Europe

Katja Theodorakis is a PhD scholar at the Centre for Arab and Islamic Studies at the Australian National University, where she is focusing on Jihadi ideology, radicalization and foreign fighters.  She publishes and regularly presents at seminars and conferences on the topics of national security/terrorism, jihadism and Middle East politics.  Katja holds a First-Class Honours degree in International Development from the Australian National University and has previously lived in the Middle East, where she was engaged in educational projects and NGO work in Syria.  She can be found on twitter @KatjaTheo.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.  


National Security Situation:  Islamic State (IS) inspired terror attacks have highlighted weaknesses in the European Union’s (EU) collective response to such security challenges.  Note:  This article does not conflate increased security concerns with the arrival of refugees.  Rather, border security and immigration control is linked here specifically to undetected criminal activity, unauthorized overstays, and the easy proliferation of existing terrorist networks.

Date Originally Written:  February 7, 2017

Date Originally Published:  February 23, 2017.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  Author is an academic terrorism researcher, objectively assessing contemporary security challenges and the threats emanating from militant jihadism.  As an Australian citizen and resident, the author’s research is supported by an Australian Government Scholarship, but this article is not written from a particular political or national security perspective.  Having lived and studied in a number of European countries as well as the U.S., the author seeks to analyze security issues, which are often highly politicized, from a wider, comparative point of view.

Background:  The security situation in Europe is at a crossroads after a string of IS-inspired terrorist attacks in 2015 and 2016.  The events witnessed in Paris, Brussels, Nice, and Berlin, as well as various smaller-scale attacks and foiled plots, have highlighted systemic weaknesses in the EU’s security architecture.  While the backgrounds and radicalization journeys of the individual attackers vary – including ‘homegrown’ jihadists as well as recent migrant arrivals – the common denominator is that they were able to take advantage of existing vulnerabilities in the EU’s approach to security, border control and immigration.

Security cooperation within the EU is reflected in the ‘Schengen’ zone, which allows for free travel as its member states surrendered some of their national powers to the supranational ‘Frontex’ border agency.  Likewise, under the Dublin Regulation, the European Asylum Support Office is supposed to coordinate the registration and processing of asylum seekers within the zone in a fair manner, and relevant security information is to be shared under the Schengen Information System (ISI).  Yet, the arrival of more than one million refugees and migrants in 2015 alone has plunged this already strained system into severe crisis[1].

The dangerous confluence of security failures, both at the national and the supranational level, became especially evident in the case of Anis Amri, the perpetrator of the Berlin Christmas market attack.  The rejected asylum-seeker and self-proclaimed jihadist from Tunisia escaped deportation after being found guilty of criminal activity in several European countries, avoided surveillance by security agencies, and managed to cross numerous European borders undetected.  Such security gaps, visible also in some of the other attacks, have cast doubt on Europe’s collective ability to protect itself from these emerging security threats through a coordinated response.

Significance:  Due to such attacks, the very survival of the Schengen project is now in question as national border controls have been partly reinstated across the zone.  This temporary return to nationalized border protection raises the question of what the options are for European leaders and policy makers to enhance security and border control across the continent?

This issue is particularly pressing in light of the continued disintegration of Syria and the security challenges for the wider Middle East.  Refugee streams will likely continue on top of ongoing migration flows from other areas of instability, such as Africa and Afghanistan.  The inevitable loss of territory for IS could lead to a shift of focus and increase its underground activity, making further terrorist attacks in Europe more likely.

Option #1:  EU countries return to national sovereignty over matters of border control, surveillance and immigration.

Individual member states can opt for more national self-determination and less cooperation with the EU on security issues.  This renationalization of migration and border protection policies could include a number of different scenarios; these range from  1) the permanent re-introduction of internal borders within the entire Schengen area, as temporarily implemented by six member states at present; 2)  a tighter, more controllable core Schengen area excluding countries such as Greece that have external borders;  to  3) even a complete Brexit-style departure from the EU, as for example proposed by France’s far-right candidate Marine Le Pen.

Risk:  Full national control of internal borders could pose a financial risk, impede free trade, and slow tourism across Europe, with an estimated annual cost of 5 – 18 billion Euros for Schengen member states[2].  It could also prove inefficient in terms of preventing terrorist attacks committed by ‘homegrown’ jihadis.  Moreover, uncoordinated security measures and migration control by individual states run the risk of creating political divisions and could inhibit more efficient information and intelligence sharing networks across Europe.  Given the increasing nexus between jihadi activity and existing crime networks in Europe, a lack of cooperation could therefore prove detrimental[3].

Gain:  A renationalization of border controls could provide more efficient security as it can avoid the lack of coordination and consistency inherent in EU-wide measures and allows for tighter surveillance.  The permanent closure of open internal borders would directly restrict the secondary movement of refugees, irregular migrants, and returning foreign fighters (at least those known to security agencies) within the zone.  This could have a positive effect on the overall security situation as asylum-seekers without documentation would remain in their country of arrival, thereby preventing those engaging in illegal activities to ‘fall through the cracks’ and evade deportation.

Option #2:  An EU-wide overhaul and harmonization of existing border management and immigration schemes.

This option would be part of a streamlined new agenda, a ‘21st Century European Security Pact’, as proposed by EU leaders at recent summits in Bratislava (2016) and Malta (2017).  Based on more unification and burden-sharing, this envisioned security agenda is to include increased military and security cooperation in the form of a European Border and Coast Guard, as well as increased Defense spending and a new ‘entry-exit’ system for non-EU arrivals to the Schengen zone where personal details are registered in a database[4][5].

Risk:  Harmonization depends on the willingness of member states to cooperate and make concessions, which could prove difficult to achieve.  If the project remains largely visionary and common institutions backing new mechanism are not sufficiently overhauled, not much would change and the challenges to Europe’s security could still not be countered efficiently.  This would further undermine the credibility of the EU as a political project.

Gain:  If successfully implemented, measures such as greater intelligence cooperation and a strengthened EU border force could be very beneficial to improving the continent’s security situation in the long run.

Other Comments:  None.

Recommendations:  None.


Endnotes:

[1]  Pinja Lehton & Pali Alto [2017], “ Smart and secure borders through automated border control systems in the EU? The views of political stakeholders in the Member States”, European Security, January 2017, http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/09662839.2016.1276057

[2]  Peter, Laurence [2017] “ Berlin truck attack: Can the EU stop another Amri?”, BBC News, 6 January 2017. Retrieved January 22, 2017: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-38517768

[3]  Basra, R., Neumann, P. R., & Brunner, C. (2016). Criminal Pasts, Terrorist Futures: European Jihadists and the New Crime-Terror Nexus. Retrieved February 16, 2017, from http://icsr.info/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/ICSR-Report-Criminal-Pasts-Terrorist-Futures-European-Jihadists-and-the-New-Crime-Terror-Nexus.pdf

[4]  Federal Foreign Office, Germany [2016] “The Future of Security in Europe” – Keynote by Markus Ederer, Secretary of State, at the Workshop “Lessons from the Ukraine Conflict: Fix the European Security Order, or Overhaul it?” DGAP and Center for the US and Europe at Brookings. Retrieved 5 February 2017: https://www.auswaertiges-amt.de/EN/Infoservice/Presse/Reden/2016/160920StS_E_Future_Security_Europe.html

[5]  Hammond, Andrew [2017],  “ Europe’s Leaders Are Finally Getting Serious About Security and Immigration – Will It Be Too Late?”, The Telegraph, 2 February 2017. Retrieved 7 February 2017: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/02/02/europes-leaders-finally-getting-serious-security-immigration/

 

European Union Katja Theodorakis Migrants Refugees Violent Extremism