As one of many Mexican immigrants in the United States, Norma Benet’s experiences represent those of one person who came to the US to live the American dream. Being 24 years old when she left Veracruz, Mexico and being a part of an upper-middle-class family, she did not leave under the same circumstances many Mexicans do. In fact, Norma questioned whether or not leaving Mexico would be the best choice, considering she had nearly no factors that urged her to leave.
Norma’s journey started in Acayucan, Veracruz, where she had lived for her whole life. Norma’s movement can be described as voluntary, international migration. Her decision to move was completely her own decision and is voluntary as she was not in any situation that would constitute forced migration. She left her life as a university student both to start a family and to accompany her family, which were her major pull factors into the United States.
In America, she would be able to raise her children in an environment that she found safer than Mexico, that was close to her family, and that would give her children a better, more fulfilling future than what they would find in Mexico. Her family had just recently migrated to America beforehand, which allowed her to truly realize the difference in the standard of living. This adheres to the concept of chain migration, which involves generations moving to a place through kinship links. In Pennsylvania, Norma was able to attain her goal of starting a family when she moved to a setting where family and friends already flourished in.
The gravity model is not able to be proved or disproved through Norma’s immigration. Since she is only one person, her migration cannot be used to prove that there is a relationship between total migration to an area and the distance between the two areas. However, if one considers the larger flow of immigrants between Mexico and the United States, migrants tend to settle in areas close to the border. There is also a heavy flow of immigrants in the short distance between Mexico and the United States when compared to that of other countries, but correlation does not equal causation, so distance is not the only relevant factor here. In any case, Norma’s residence farther from the Mexican border at least provides an example of an immigrant choosing to live in an area more unfamiliar and farther away, which goes against the gravity model.
Ravenstein’s Laws of Migration can be used to observe migratory patterns at multiple scales. The first law states that with all migration flows, a counter-migration follows. This is true in the case of Mexico on a more grand scale than just one migrant – Mexico is home to the largest amount of American expatriates. The second law conflicts with Norma’s migration story as she didn’t travel a short distance. Norma also never temporarily resided in a city while she was making her way to Souderton, making both the third law of migration and the concept of step migration inapplicable. Norma’s family, however, did move around after becoming United States residents. In addition, once she had her footing in the United States, Norma lived in New Jersey with her husband and children. Considering this as a separate instance of intraregional migration, one could show how urban residents are less migratory, which is in accordance with the fourth law of migration. The final law of migration conflict, though, in Norma’s case. Before she left, essentially her whole immediate family emigrated to America, while she stayed behind for another few years. Though the fact that they were all adults plays a role in this, Norma’s story shows that the fifth law of migration does not apply.
In general, there is a large migration stream between Mexico and the United States.
The Immigration Act of 1965 initiated the most recent period of mass immigration to the United States. This act abolished the restrictive quota system of the 1920s and opened up legal immigration to all the countries in the world. The abolishing of the quota system made it harder for immigrants from the southern border, like Norma, to acquire proper documentation because it focused on allowing immigration from all countries as opposed to where most migrants come from. Since Norma came to the US prior to 9/11, obtaining documentation was not as difficult as compared to the process now. Still, she had to go through an arduous system to get working papers, a visa, and eventually get onto the path to citizenship.
Ultimately, leaving proved to be the right choice even though she was content in Mexico. In America, Norma was given the perfect setting to live out her goal of starting a family and providing a safer environment for her children. In regards to her identity, Norma considers herself a Mexican-American. She values her culture and roots and does not feel ashamed of her heritage or other things that people might single her out for.