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By Philippe Legrain 3 COMMENTS

As Stephen Dubner points out on the Freakonomics blog, there is a fascinating and moving article in the New England Journal of Medicine by  Alfredo Quiñones-Hinojosa, the director of the brain-tumour stem-cell laboratory at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.

In the article, “Terra Firma — A Journey from Migrant Farm Labor to
Neurosurgery”, Quiñones-Hinojosa tells how he came to the US illegally from Mexico in
the mid-1980s as a teenage migrant worker who didn’t speak English.

I spent long days in the fields picking fruits and vegetables, sleeping under leaky camper shells, eating anything I could get, with hands bloodied from pulling weeds — the very same hands that today perform brain surgery.

Through a long series of hard jobs, accidents, inspiration and
mentorship, he wound up attending Berkeley and then Harvard Medical

From the fields of the San Joaquin Valley in California to the field of neurosurgery, it has been quite a journey. Today, as a neurosurgeon and researcher, I am taking part in the larger journey of medicine, both caring for patients and conducting clinical and translational research on brain cancer that I hope will lead to innovative ways of fighting devastating disease. And as a citizen of the United States, I am also participating in the great journey of this country. For immigrants like me, this voyage still means the pursuit of a better life — and the opportunity to give back to society.

Read the full article here.

Posted 09 Aug 2007 in Blog
  1. Carter says:

    To make mass immigration easier to swallow, its proponents feed the public a one-sided diet of examples. They cherry pick anomalies like Quiñones-Hinojosa, but never mention Juan Corona or Humberto Diaz de la Torre.

  2. J Maxwell, Mexifornia says:

    Nice, now you want to see MY hand-picked immigration “polyganda”?
    Open-borders cheerleaders never dare publish empirical data because it would interfere with their a priori story- that colonization BY Europeans is bad, colonization OF Europeans is good.
    Mr. Quiñones-Hinojosa is clearly several sigma out to the right on the bell curve, and as such his own country surely needs this vanishingly rare exception back.

  3. It’s good to see you being forced to defend yourself with this post. I wonder if you understand the basics of your own defence. We’ll see.
    As a migrant, Sn Quiñones-Hinojosa can be assessed on a suite of impacts. These go beyond economic impact. And, indeed, your article infers exactly that, since you justify the presence of this particular migrant in America – and through him all 40 million of his kin – on the grounds of common good. So you concede, Phillipe, that economism is not the sole basis for assessing the value of migration into the living space of we benighted European peoples, but only a part of it. That’s good. Many migration fanatics cannot see beyond money-making and prosperity as the purpose of existence.
    Now let us examine “common good”.
    Here and here are a couple of entries at the blog I own. They are about sexual criminality by Muslim males in, respectively, England and Sweden. The gentlemen responsible for these appalling deeds are, of course, migrants. How, if common good is a useful arbiter, can one ignore such deeply negative effects?
    You see, Phillipe, my own daughter was born into this world through the skill of an Egyptian doctor working in Chelsea. So I understand your point about Sn Quiñones-Hinojosa very well. But I also understand the higher incidence of criminality among Chicanos and Hispanics in America, and among Pakistani Moslems and Afro-Caribbeans in England, and North African and Sub-Saharan Africans in France … and so on.
    Common good is a difficult issue for you, because there is an awful lot of common harm. Further, all the evidence is that this harm increases with the second generation, and does not dissipate. The neoliberal trope about “poor peoples just seeking a better life” really is wholly short-termist and, anyway, does not take into account the effect on the poorest indigenes who find their wages reduced and their communities destroyed.
    There is, however, one fair and objective measure of migrant benefit to hand, and that is “carrying capacity”. The political scientist Frank Salter describes it thus: “For a given level of technological and economic development, a territory’s carrying capacity is the population beyond which further population growth results in some value being lost.”
    Lost values include social cohesion, privacy, access to open space, sustenance, employment, prosperity, educational standards, social order, among others. (I should add that technological advances brought by migrants do not necessarily increase carrying capacity for natives. For example, the migration of technologically-advanced European to America did not increase the genetic interests of the Lakota and Blackfoot.)
    So, Phillipe, not only can one assess Sn Quiñones-Hinojosa (and, indeed, all his Chicano people in America) on this wide suite of impacts, but one can determine if and when carrying capacity in America has, in fact, been reached.
    Now, it’s not my purpose here to write a full and tiresomely earnest impact paper on Mexican migration into the American south west. I am just trying to open your youthful eyes to the broader issues, and to force you to assess all the impact evidence, and not just the stuff – like the story of Sn Quiñones-Hinojosa – that you hope will support you.
    Ultimately, of course, I would like to awaken you to your own ethnic interests, and quash the present damaging assumptions that underpin your worldview. But that will have to wait.

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