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{Excerpt} This book tells the political story of how migrants from Morocco and Mexico changed the communities they left, and how their initiatives, small and bold, would ultimately transform the nations from which they had emigrated. Accounts of the ways migrants have changed their communities of origin for the better have become widespread; in their most celebratory versions, migrants' philanthropic efforts at community development offer reassuring confirmation that small is indeed beautiful and that economic change can occur far outside the reach of the state. These laudatory portrayals omit a central protagonist. They minimize, when not completely obscuring, the role of governments in shaping the impact that migrants' efforts to improve the lives of their families have on their communities and, more broadly, on their nation. However, the clinic in the mountain village in Morocco was not built nor was the road between the isolated Mexican town and the modern hospital paved without government support. In both cases, government policies mediated migrant investment in their communities of origin. In Morocco, government guidelines for medical equipment and the nursing staff the government provided turned the small concrete room into a working health center. In Mexico, municipal officials with maps of the potential roads in hand sought out migrants and asked them to raise funds for the project, with the promise that any road paved with migrant dollars would serve as a permanent symbol of their strong commitment to their communities, despite the border that kept them far from home.

This book rehabilitates the place of the state in the narrative about the relationship between migration and development. It argues that the impact that migrants had on the welfare of their communities and countries of origin grew directly out of their involvement with the very governments that had—discreetly in the case of Mexico, enthusiastically in that of Morocco—encouraged their departure while actively neglecting the development of the areas they came from.


The abstract, table of contents, and first twenty-five pages are published with permission from the Cornell University Press. For ordering information, please visit the Cornell University Press