I recently attended a seminar by Professors Amy Montcastle, (anthropology), Elizabeth Onasch, (sociology) and Attorney Mark Schneider at the Institute for Ethics in Public Life at SUNY Plattsburgh where the topic was an examination of the current local migrant problems.
Recently the Press Republican ran a series of articles about the individuals and families who were trying to immigrate to Canada via the Roxham road in Champlain.
Overall, it was an enlightening experience highlighting the interactions between the cab drivers and the migrants.
I was surprised to learn the cabbies were not all greedy capitalist entrepreneurs gouging the defenseless immigrants but many were very kind and helpful, briefing the families on what to do at the border and even helping the disabled at the crossing.
WHAT’S IN A WORD
All of this helped me to understand how complex the immigration proceedings are as well as sparking my interest in how the Internet plays a part in this process.
Searching on queries such as “how does the internet affect migrants” returned more links than I needed for this column.
What interested me the most was how the Internet helps and hurts the immigrants but before going further it is useful to review the distinctions between “Emigrate”,”Immigrate” and plain old “Migrate.”
“Emigrate” means to leave one's country to live in another. “Immigrate” is to come into another country to live permanently. “Migrate” is to move, like birds in the winter. The choice between emigrate, immigrate, and migrate depends on the sentence's point of view.
The most positive effects the Internet has on the migrants or immigrants is that it can keep them connected to the family members they are leaving as well to others on the same journey.
The information passing amongst the migrants helps to make their journey more efficient and less unpleasant. It can range from sharing which routes are less dangerous and more accommodating to posting the charges of cabbies so they are not ripped off on their final leg to Canada.
These migrants are technologically savvy — they readily use WhatApp, Facebook and Skype to assist them on their journey.
At the other end, the Internet is used by organizations like Refugees Welcome International to match newly arrived immigrants with natives to ease their process of resettlement.
Individuals and families in many countries (mostly in Europe) offer a spare room in their home or apartment to a matched immigrant. They are funded by local governments and private donations and is “convinced that refugees should not be stigmatized and excluded from society by being accommodated in camps. Instead, we should offer them a warm welcome. We believe we can establish a culture of open doors for refugees across the World.” Some call it the “Air BnB” of Europe.
Of course, if there’s an upside there is usually a downside — especially regarding the Internet.
The downsides of migrants using the Internet to help them is that it is not like a book. After a book is published, it is finished, it does not change (OK, OK, until the next edition is published.)
Unlike hard copy, the Internet is in a constant flux: some of the information is new and reliable but some is outdated or incorrect and sadly, some is just not true.
Many links are dead ends and cause everyone, not only immigrants a great deal of frustration and time wasted. “ It could mean applying for jobs that no longer exist. At worst, it could mean embarking on a dangerous migration journey based on incorrect visa or asylum information.”
LEAD OR FOLLOW
Most of us find this rapidly changing behavior of the Internet as merely annoying but to an immigrant the results can be disastrous and can make them more susceptible to exploitation and physical harm.
There are many other avenues the Internet provides to immigrants such as language apps to help them assimilate and coding schools to learn how to program which enhances job opportunities, But actually everyone pretty much everywhere have these same sorts of Internet opportunities provided by sites like Ebay and Amazon and Google and Facebook and Netflix and Youtube and ... there is not enough space or time to mention all of them because they are being created and going extinct at a rate faster than I can type.
I guess I should not have been surprised by how much the Internet influences the migration process — within the last 10 years the Internet seems to have spread into every nook and cranny of every society on this globe. Like it or not, the motto of the Internet age seems to be, “Lead, Follow or Get Out of the Way.”
Dr. Stewart A. Denenberg is an emeritus professor of computer science at Plattsburgh State, retiring recently after 30 years there. He can be reached at email@example.com.