What’s the story?
On Wednesday, Home Secretary Priti Patel announced the government's new post-Brexit immigration regulations. The top line is that 'low-skilled' workers will not be granted visas, as the Home Office urges employers to “move away” from “cheap labour”. Instead, Patel told the BBC that the government wanted to “encourage people with the right talent”. Immigration has been a key battleground in British politics since the referendum in 2016.
What’s the book?
Academic and author Suketu Mehta defines the humans behind the numbers in his 2019 book, This Land Is Our Land: An Immigrant’s Manifesto.
It is partially inspired by his own story: Mehta's family moved from India to New York in 1977, when he was a boy. Settling in Queens, he was subjected to racism and abuse, being called everything from a pagan, a ‘Gandhi’ and an ‘Ayatollah’.
This Land Is Our Land exlores the reasons why people migrate, from gang violence to global warming. But is also tells a series of moving stories, such as the romance between a young couple caught on either side of the California-Mexico border who found the 'semi-hidden place' in the fence where there was a hole 'big enough for part of a whole palm to slip through, four fingers all the way up to the knuckle'. The couple meet every week at this spot; and one day Mehta sees a ring on her finger.
The author may be based in New York but This Land Is Our Land opens with a British narrative: his grandfather was sitting on a park bench in North London when an elderly white British man asked him ‘Why are you here? Why don't you go back to your country?’ Mehta’s grandfather responded saying, ‘You came to my country… You prevented our industry from growing, so we have come here to collect. We are here because you were there’. Mehta argues that this anecdote ‘summarises the reason for much of the global migration that we are seeing today’.
'I am not calling for open borders,' Mehta writes. 'I am calling for open hearts'.