Academic journal article Journal of International and Global Studies

The Transnational Political Involvement of Nigerian Immigrants in New York City: Motivations, Means and Constraints

Academic journal article Journal of International and Global Studies

The Transnational Political Involvement of Nigerian Immigrants in New York City: Motivations, Means and Constraints

Article excerpt

Introduction

There is a growing recognition among migration scholars that immigrants increasingly maintain links to their homelands, and that these multiple ties have important consequences for both their sending and receiving countries. Transnational migration is the process by which "immigrants forge and sustain simultaneous multi-stranded social relationships that link together their societies of origin and settlement" (Glick Schiller et al., 1995: 48). More broadly, the concept of transnationalism refers to processes that transcend the boundaries of individual nation-states, and are bound to the constraints and opportunities of their specific contexts (Guarnizo & Smith, 1998). Transnationalism can occur in economic, political or sociocultural spheres (Portes, 2001) and also differs in its level of institutionalization (Portes, Guarnizo & Landholt, 1999). Two perspectives dominate the discussion of political transnationalism as it pertains to immigrants. One perspective views it as a grassroots movement, an expression of "bottom-up" resistance (Guarnizo, 2001; Portes, 2003). In this view, marginalized people use transnational activities to resist state and other forms of domination. An alternative perspective interprets transnational political practices as enabling states to exert power outside their traditional jurisdiction (Glick Schiller, 1999). Specifically, countries of origin seek to incorporate immigrants, who are beyond their territory, into their national projects.

Immigrants can be involved in the politics of their country of reception and/or in the politics of their country of origin in multiple ways. When naturalized, immigrants vote in their receiving country's elections on many issues, including but not limited to immigration policy (Guarnizo, 2001; Levitt & Jaworksky, 2007; Richman, 2008). Naturalized immigrants also participate in local politics and are even voted into office (Richman, 2008). Immigrant hometown associations can organize national mobilization and protests (Richman, 2008), and provide aid to immigrants' hometowns. Finally, immigrants can become directly involved in political activities in their home countries, either by voting in elections, campaigning for political parties, or by being courted abroad by home candidates. Among some immigrant groups like Dominicans in New York City, home country political parties have established offices in immigrants' new neighborhoods (Guarnizo, 2001).

Some scholars have questioned early studies of immigrant transnational political participation on the grounds that the scope of immigrant transnationalism has been overestimated and that it does not represent a new phenomenon (Portes, 2001). However, despite evidence that only a small percentage of immigrants become involved in transnational activities, their impact in both their sending and receiving countries is significant and has macrosocial consequences (Portes, 2001; Portes, 2003). Similarly, while recent immigrants to the United States are not the first to undertake transnational activities, some aspects of their use, reach and impact are different than anything previous because both the global and local contexts, as well as the composition of the immigrant groups, have changed substantially (Guarnizo, 2001). Compared to older waves of immigrants, contemporary ones are more informed about the U.S., the local and global contexts in which their transnational activities are embedded are very different and more interconnected, and their home country seeks to institutionalize these activities in unprecedented ways (Guarnizo, 2001).

Finally, research shows that transnational activities oriented towards the country of origin can occur simultaneously with those oriented towards the host society (Bermudez, 2010). This is because the process of incorporation does not necessarily weaken transnational participation (Itzigsohn and Saucedo, 2002). Rather, context of reception and mode of incorporation lead to different causal paths to transnational practices (Itzigsohn and Saucedo, 2002). …

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