ERMA's desk...: Immigration, not the universal panacea for some

Immigration, a very stressful solution for every new immigrant.

Immigration, a term which needs no elaboration or redefining, for most of us, simply put, it is a human movement where there is a written agreement between different countries/colonies based on certain laws agreed upon by each participating country. North American population is made up of a large percentage of migrants from the four corners of the world; as a result, we are a country with a vast array of cultural values, blended values and/or questionable values.

Immigration has opened many different doors to individuals with at least one notion, and that is to allow people to pursue a different/better way of life through lawful relocation. For some of the pioneering generation, this act of relocation seldom brings instant gratification. If, and when it happens, it is usually small. Gratification in of itself is personal and is defined based on the individual’s goal. Still, gratification is based on a vision and if vision drives the reason for immigration, then manifestation is not the only evidence that leads to gratification. Living in the possibility of the reality of gratification could be a good enough reason to believe you have achieved.

For others, gratification comes generations later because gratification in this situation is embedded in the manifestation of a reality that makes it tangible. This is often contingent on who the individual or group is, in terms of where and how they began their new life. Essentially, the ultimate goal is seeing the purpose manifested in ways that can and does impact the lives of the next generation. This is one of those cases, where the full purpose for immigrating based on a vision, may require more than one generation to fulfil that goal.

Gratification at one’s personal best may be delayed based on challenges such as reaching out to an ageing parent, dependent children or spouse who may be left behind in the old country. This decision to migrate is often marred with loneliness and fear, so, to feel/remain connected to something/or someone familiar, these immigrants often encourage family members to come and join them in the place of new hope.

Establishing one’s self as a pioneering generation takes courage and selflessness. In the early stages of migration survival/adaptation is a key factor in accomplishing one’s basic needs. These human traits can be like monsters when you are alone in a new land. Many immigrants must find low paying jobs at the start and therefore maybe have to work two to three jobs to earn extra funds to send back as assistance to others in the old country.

Immigration is not for everyone but failure to try leads no further than yourself. Many individuals have changed their destiny and their family’s destiny and lineage through immigration and will attest to the hardship of doing so. In moments of reflection, some immigrants will say, “I don’t know how I did it, but today I can say I am glad I did because I am stronger through that experience”.

In the immigration process, there is often a multitude of outcomes which are often contingent on the age, gender, and level of exposure of the immigrant. One of those outcomes is where ageing parents are faced with the challenges of long-distance relationships between self and their migrant children. To narrow the margin of separation, the migrated family member often sponsor their ageing parent to live with them. While this may work, sometimes there are many pitfalls with that decision; one of which is a culture shock. This aspect of immigration often leads to disappointments and can even lead to a more strained relationship between parent and children. From this perspective, there are no right or wrong answers. What could be said is that for many, in the case of sponsorship, immigration may be a way of freedom but not everyone’s freedom, sets them free?

The family sometimes are faced with physical, and emotional distance, because of cultural differences in the way the family function in the new country versus the homeland. The elderly sometimes feel excluded or unvalued because they don’t feel needed anymore.

Further to their sense of loss, they are faced with the need for lifestyle change which is a difficult concept to impress upon the aged person. The necessity of adaptation is received as invasive for the ageing parent. As a result, they may withdraw from the family.

For the elderly, migrating to North America is seldom the answer to truly narrowing the gap of separation created through immigration. Success in this area is hard to measure because someone must lose for another to win. There is a very slim chance of a win-win situation but the pattern of success appears to be generational.

Sticking together as a family and encouraging each other can be a safety net for the entire migrant group but the possibility of stagnation could also find solace among the group and that usually results in the demise of the original purpose for the migration. The latter has very little to do with immigration, but it seems to permeate each group because it is difficult to grow and change when you belong to a closed group. Interestingly enough, in the early years of immigration, the migrant had difficulty dealing with the culture gap. In the following years, there must be a shift in the mindset of the migrant is to survive and adapt successfully. This means that the familiar is not always therapeutic for accomplishments.

Second generation immigrants who arrived to join family who migrated earlier may have to delay or even abandon their future plans because of a conflict of interest. If the earlier settlers are without a real vision the newest migrant needs to explore to learn about their basic rights and responsibility in their new country. If they neglect to do so they could naively adopt the spirit of their sponsor and experience life based on the sponsor’s philosophy.

In comparison, a review of the same situation but with different individuals make up the group, the outcome will be far different because the spirit and philosophy are different. It is apparent that the approach to the new country and the acquisition of knowledge will drive the newcomer to look for the pearl deep in the ocean even when they cannot swim. From this aspect, you can see why success may be impossible or delayed for generations. The possibility of success 101, is contingent on the pioneering person. The first step is to make the first move and subsequent moves will follow. Therefore, the leader in immigration initiative is to be recognized as possibly a game changer.

In another scenario, school-aged children will experience migration differently. They are younger, so integration is more appealing. They make friends more easily and they embrace lifestyle changes more readily. It is not unlikely, that school-aged children will face challenges in terms of leaving friends behind and having to make new friends. They too experience culture shock but it is easier for them to adopt because attending school affords them a great opportunity and exposure to new knowledge. What appears factual about immigration is the younger individuals usually do better in the process of assimilation. Additionally, the young educated migrant has a better chance of hitting the ground slowly, allowing the dust to settle as they rush in the pursuit of their immigration goals and responses.

Conversely, the ageing family member usually lived the greater part of their lives in their old country and has no burning desire to become a person of greater importance. Immigration may be experienced as a fly in the ointment of their later years. This is not true for every ageing migrant but since the changes in lifestyle brings them so many challenges their idea of immigration is like an invasion of their existence. Therefore, immigration is relative to the terms of one’s convictions. The option of migrating to another part of the world is still an attractive venture for many but it comes with many serious risks.

The older we are, the more difficult it is for us to adopt and adapt to the demands of the huge mosaic known as North America. Many older individuals struggle because they do not make the connection between physical and mental exercise to their overall well-being. This is not a concept they had to be a concern with while they were in their own country because, for them, physical activity is a normal way of life. In many third world countries, the mode of transportation is walking or biking. To get an elderly person to join the gymnasium, a walking club, learn to play bridge, how to bowl, go swimming, take a self- enrichment class, join a book club (etc.), usually are met with resistance as there seems to be no relative purpose to participate in such activities.

Immigrants with a vision often do well in the new settlement. The idea of doing well is relative to the goals of the person as well as their personal value system. What is considered “good” for one person may be an affront to another? The imagery of immigration may have the allure of “freedom/opportunity” but if you do not have a vision in place of strangulation you seldom get one when you escape or crossover. When the motto of a country is seen as suffocating, the mindset of the people is usually hostility. Essentially, if you cannot envision yourself free from that motto you could die under that regime, no matter where you are physically located.

With few options to pursue, living and working with fellow citizens may be very challenging for the newly immigrated. Changes even as seemingly trivial as season changes or sunlight hours changes can become serious disruptions for the new immigrant. Often, they refuse to go outside and absorb some sunlight. Immigration of family from the old country entails a myriad of challenges, difficulties and problem.

In this relocation process, there are things like cultural inconsistencies around child rearing. Each generation raises children differently. This difference may create tension in the home. The grandchildren may not embrace the grandparents because the values of their grandparents differ from the North American values they are now assimilating. Grandparents feel rejected in the belief that they no longer have any value for the family.

It is possible that if the older adult had their own lifestyle to maintain they would not feel so neglected and wrapped up in the fact that the grandchildren do not really need them much. All these factors just create many challenges where the home environment erodes the happiness of the family home. Parents reluctance to try new initiatives can be the elephant in the room and it would make a bad situation worse if the children label it to be so.

The ultimate worst-case scenario is that the elderly person asks to be returned back home, a request which likely would sour the parent and child relationship. Initially, the goal was to give the children an opportunity to supervise the elders. A return to home would be very unwelcomed by the sponsor. If the children are the providers of resources to the elders, this support could be lost or withdrawn degrading the home life even more. Occasionally, parents may face new difficulties. A typical situation is where their close neighbour and friend may have moved away from the region and also gone to live with their own children in another country, or they may have passed away. This presents a serious challenge to the parent because they return home with the hope that there would be some sort of support, but instead they are truly on their own for the first time. This creates a new level of dependency which can crush the elderly. This is a lot to deal with where they are caught between a “rock and a hard place”. Sometimes the children will bring them back, but the relationship can be quite strained.

Some elderly who are willing to try new things, especially those who came from large urban environments. People from the big cities are much more exposed so they tend to be more open to new ideas. Individuals from the countryside are usually more resistant to change and integration. They appear more intimidated and reject participation in new and unfamiliar activities associated with their new country. They are somewhat reluctant about having to learn new things, finding comfortable in saying “I don’t know how to play that game, or I don’t understand the rules of the game.” They appear more comfortable in isolation, watching TV or staying in their room. Culture shock is a reality for most immigrants and it is most evident in the earliest stages of immigration if the withdrawal by the individuals is observed and recognized.

The new immigrant needs to connect with others, learns how to live a full life in the new country. It is not wise to create a world of inactivity because inactivity is counter-productive for good health. The best time to initiate integration is as soon as they arrive. This may be is easier said than done. The reality of feeling homesickness can be a very serious problem. This sometimes leads to depression because they missed their friends/family and neighbours. Older adults sometimes have difficulty making friends and some don’t like talking on the phone. The winters are long and cold; summers, too short and too hot; realities over which we have no control over.

It might be more appropriate for the parents to come and visit a few times and then eventually, migrate to the country. Constant and endless cultural shock can be very difficult for the migrant. There are no easy answers because for centuries immigration has been one of those popular options exercised by families who choose to look for a positive change in their lives by emigration to different parts of the world. For those adults who adapt well to the change in culture, climate and lifestyle, the family unifies, and the outcome is totally different.

It appears that the people who have the best results are the ones who visit their children in North America for six months or more, caring for the grandchildren during the summer months and the family reciprocates with periodic return visits to the parents in the old country.

Immigration is not for everyone. It is an irresistible siren song for many who dream of freedom and a better life in a new land, a new country.

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