There Goes the Neighborhood: Book Review
Immigration is one of the hot topics of our time and most people have very strong opinions about it. Donald Trump’s successful presidential campaign promised to “Make America Great Again” in response to his supporters who cried “we want our country back!” For many Americans, these feelings of “losing” their country stem in part from the changing face of America caused by increased immigration from South America and Asia. While some Americans have been able to embrace globalism and its benefits, others have struggled to come to terms with the cultural tension that globalism inevitably brings. These vastly different responses to immigration have resulted in an American identity crisis.
Ali Noorani, a second generation Pakistani immigrant and the Executive Director of the National Immigration Forum, seeks to address this identity crisis in his forthcoming book There Goes the Neighborhood: How Communities Overcome Prejudice and Meet the Challenge of American Immigration. The book will be released by Prometheus Books on April 4th. Prometheus graciously sent me an advance copy so that I could write this review for you all. There Goes the Neighborhood gives a brief history of 21st century immigration to the US told through the stories of real Americans who have been affected by it. It also encourages us to continue to find creative and innovative ways to meet the challenges of immigration while also embracing and celebrating its benefits.
While Noorani traveled the country to get to know the individuals whose stories are included in There Goes the Neighborhood, he came to the conclusion that conversations about immigration were far more effective when they focused, not on policy and partisanship, but on immigrants as people. Throughout the book Noorani highlights the stories of conservative business owners, law enforcement officers, and faith leaders who have come to learn through personal experience how immigrants can strengthen their communities. Support for immigration has largely been characterized as a politically liberal position, and yet nearly everyone Noorani interacts with in this book is conservative. Page after page Noorani meets unexpected supporters of immigration reforms.
As Noorani seeks to build partnerships with these unlikely allies, he learns to adjust his language to reflect the unique values of conservative (and often religious) Americans. He realizes that immigration does not have to be a partisan issue, and that most Americans can find personal reasons to support it. This is a valuable lesson that Christian supporters of refugees and immigrants can learn from There Goes the Neighborhood. Too often in our own advocacy for these issues we fail to explain to our audiences how immigration support fits in with their preexisting set of values. Instead of focusing on how immigrants are a net benefit to the economy or trying to convince people of the miniscule terrorism risk that refugee resettlement poses, we would do well to focus on how immigration support is inherently pro-life, or how refugees are simply seeking freedom to provide for their families in a safe environment.
Non-Christians can also benefit from reading There Goes the Neighborhood. Noorani, a secular Muslim, had some serious assumptions that most white evangelicals were outright opposed to immigration. He quickly found out how wrong he was and learned that many evangelicals support immigration and refugee resettlement because they are expressly commanded in Scripture to “welcome the stranger.” Non-Christians who read this book may be equally surprised to find that they have quite a few allies in churches and conservative circles across the country who are advocating for generous and compassionate immigration reforms. If you have family members or friends who are unsure of (or opposed to) immigration and refugee resettlement, I would highly recommend offering to read There Goes the Neighborhood with them in order to begin a conversation about how we can all support immigration while still remaining true to our cultural, political, and religious values. You can find the book on Amazon in hardcover and Kindle versions for preorder.
Read other brief reviews of the book and get to know more about Ali Noorani on his personal website.