What I’d like the reader to take away from this essay is the significance of the seemingly insignificant aspects of immigration regarding how immigrants are viewed in society. Without looking at all aspects of immigration, it is impossible to get a solid understanding of what life is like for immigrants.
Immigrants and Their Everlasting Attachment
A man stands looking into the path in front of him. His daughter is sitting on his shoulders; she looks to be no more than three. Their clothing is dirty, and trash lay on the ground behind them. Rundown homes are in the distance. They have just arrived in a new country after enduring a difficult journey. They were forced to say goodbye to their homeland, and hello to a foreign country in which they know nothing about. They had to leave all they have ever known for something completely foreign to them. Although this is their new home, they will always hold a special connection to their home country. This lasting attachment that immigrants have to their homeland is an aspect of immigration that is not always talked about and is often overlooked. The everlasting feeling they get when they think about their home country is something that very few can understand, as it is impossible to fully understand something without actually experiencing it. A few works that touch on this subject in order to help others understand the feeling, however, include the book Exit West by Mohsin Hamid, the film Beasts of the Southern Wild by Lucy Alibar, and the article “A Return to Nigeria” by Enuma Okoro.
Each immigrant has their own story, history, and longing for their country which makes understanding their struggles very difficult. There can either be a specified reason for one’s deep attachment to their homeland, or it can simply just be. An example of this is in Exit West, by Mohsin Hamid when Saeed and Nadia are preparing to flee from their home country and seek refuge and they are faced with the fact that Saeed’s father will not be escaping with them. Upon asking his father why his father responds with, “‘Your mother is her.’ Saeed said, ‘Mother is gone.’ His father said, ‘not for me’ (Hamid 95). Although he had the chance to, he refused to leave his wife, who had died, behind. She was buried in that country, therefore he must stay there. The connection Saeed’s father developed for his country was so much deeper than imaginable that he would rather risk his safety, let alone his life, in order to remain in the place his wife was buried. In this case, his wife being buried there strengthens the connection he has to the country, even though he already had a deep connection there before. His reason for staying is unique to him, as is anyone’s reason. It is not necessarily the country itself that he is connected to, it is what the country holds that deeply resonates with him. Although Saeed’s father ultimately stayed and is not an immigrant, he is the perfect example as to how if one were to leave their home country, their attachment and resonance to that country would remain with them throughout their whole life.
Similarly, in the film Beasts of the Southern Wild by Lucy Alibar, after the community is evacuated and brought to the dry land in attempts to “save” them, they all find a way to escape back to their land even though it is seen as unsuitable by those in the dry land. They had a deep connection to their home as there was a great sense of community that was unfulfilled during the time they spent in the dry land. Although they returned to run down, unsustainable shack-like homes, they regained their sense of belonging, which is often a leading reason as to why immigrants have such an attachment to their homeland.
Another example as to how belonging plays a role in the lasting attachment immigrants have to their home country is demonstrated in the article, “A Return to Nigeria” by Enuma Okoro. Enuma had spent only a small portion of her life in Nigeria before her family immigrated to the United States. She had grown up without feeling connected to her home country or feeling like she wanted to return. That was until she had to return to bury her father, as it is custom in Igbo culture to bury oneself in their country of origin. She reminisces, “I couldn’t stop thinking about the fact that there was a land and a people that rightfully claimed me. Choosing to ignore that seemed oddly irresponsible…” (Okoro 2). Okoro had always struggled with her identity, as she felt should could not label herself as Nigerian nor American as she did not fully resonate with either of those cultures. Upon returning to Nigeria, she realized that there is a whole village that knows her name and knows who she is and is accepting of her. That feeling was something she never had in America. After contemplating it for a while, Okoro finally decided to give up her first world lifestyle, buy a one-way ticket, and move to Nigeria, which remains a poor, developing country. Okoro is the perfect example of how strong the sense of belonging and attachment can be for immigrants, even if they do not initially feel that sense of longing for their homeland.
Although discussing the attachment that immigrants have to their country of origin may seem insignificant compared to other aspects of immigration, it is very necessary to look further into it because it allows the public to attempt to understand the effects immigration has on immigrants and their wellbeing. If those who make laws about immigration do not even understand the severity of all aspects of immigration, it is not fair for them to make laws limiting resources and safety precautions for immigrants. There are a lot of components to the immigration crisis and there are many different opposing opinions, however, if one were to look at the seemingly insignificant parts of immigration, as these writers have done, it is clear to see that it goes much deeper than just “wanting to come to America.” It is not an easy decision for immigrants to make to leave their country, and only do so when necessary for their own safety and future, as they know the feeling of attachment will linger for their lifetime.
Alibar, Lucy. Beasts of the Southern Wild. Hamid, Mohsin. Exit West. Penguin Random House, 2017. Okoro, Enuma. “A Return to Nigeria.” The New York Times, 23 Apr. 2014. Oxfam. “7 Ways You Can Help Refugees Right Now.” Oxfam, 13 Jan. 2020, www.oxfamamerica.org/explore/stories/7-ways-you-can-help-refugees-right-now/.