A New Social Contract: Social Welfare in an Era of Transnational Migration


"The streets of Pilsen in Chicago ... are filled with proof of the transnational activities of their residents," the author writes. Images of roots and family appear in this mural on the side of a building in Pilsen. Credit: Creative Commons/Adam Jones, Ph.D.

Almost every Sunday, Boston residents from the small Dominican village of Boca Canasta get together to work on projects aimed at making life better back home. Over the last forty years, they have raised thousands of dollars to build an aqueduct, fix roads and bridges, and renovate the school, community center, and health clinic. Lately, they’ve set their sights on helping community members in Boston. Finding ways to lower high school dropout rates and rising crime is now their focus. Like many immigrants across the United States, they are putting down roots in the place where they’ve moved while continuing to remain active in the economics and politics of their homeland.

A short drive from Boston, in the suburbs of northeastern Massachussetts, a community of immigrants from the villages and small towns of Gujarat State on the west coast of India have settled in affluent new subdivisions. Even as they work, attend school, and build religious congregations locally, these immigrants are also pursuing Gujarati dreams by opening businesses, renovating homes and farms, and building schools and hospitals in India.

Similar stories are unfolding in immigrant neighborhoods all over the country.

The streets of Pilsen in Chicago, Washington Heights in New York, or Koreatown in Los Angeles are filled with proof of the transnational activities of their residents: travel agencies, stores that wire money to relatives back home, phone cards, and homeland food items. This is because people continue to vote, pray, and invest in businesses in the places they come from at the same time that they buy homes, open stores, and join the PTA in the countries where they settle.

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