Crown Lecture in Ethics, Jason DeParle: The Human Story of Global Migration

The Case for Humanizing the Story of Global Migration

by Samia Noor
Nov. 11, 2019

“One third of the world lives in poverty. I think I was in the process of discernment. What should be my response to the problem of global poverty?”

Jason DeParle, a reporter for the New York Times with a focus on migration and poverty, recently came to Duke for the Crown Lecture Series. The Crown Lecture Series focuses on discussing ethical issues in society. DeParle’s conversation with Philip Bennet revolved around how his recent book “A Good Provider Is One Who Leaves: One Family and Migration in the 21st Century” explores the connection between poverty and migration. After DeParle graduated from Duke, he moved to the Philippines to do a one year fellowship focused on global poverty. He came with the intention of exploring the causes of poverty, and left with a larger understanding of global migration and how poverty is in fact the root cause of migration.

In DeParle’s time in the Philippines, he closely connected with a family that represents the modern struggles of migration. The father in the family he connected with worked in Saudi Arabia as a construction worker and sent home remittances. This was not uncommon for Filipino families, most had the head of their household living overseas and sending back money for them to sustain themselves off. Families pushed for their children to grow up and go abroad, to leave their home country that didn’t have any economic mobility opportunities for them. While migrating and adapting to new cultures was hard, DeParle points out that these migrants are proud. They are proud of their home nation and bringing their cultures and traditions abroad. They are proud of the struggles and challenges they faced to come to another nation. Rosalie, a woman DeParle befriended in the Philippines, waited 20 years to get her visa to the United States.

The narrative of migration is largely told with connotations of tragedy and sadness. While modern migrants do face extreme challenges leaving their home country and having to embrace a new identity abroad, it is time to change the narrative of migration. In DeParle’s novel, he was able to come to terms with his own developed perception of migration. Modern migrant stories should be told proudly and respected for the grit and endurance they have. It’s time to humanize the story of migration and look beyond the tragedies, and start looking for the proud stories migrants have to tell.

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