UNM Communication & Journalism Professor Michael Lechuga is not only paving the path for research on virtual reality, but an all too real one. 

Lechuga has just co-authored and published the book Migrant World Making, a harrowing collection of anecdotes and theories of what happens when migrants settle into the U.S. 

He and additional co-authors from Texas A&M University, Loyolay Marymont University,and Colorado State University dive into the idea of community building, and the challenges associated with such a critical sense of belonging.  

“This project is a reflection of our vision for fixing how migrants are oftentimes just talked about but rarely get to represent themselves or talk about themselves. That was something that we wanted to really focus on in this book,” Lechuga said. “There's this sense that so much of the world, as it's constructed and produced, is against them, so they have to make their own worlds when they go places.”  

By exploring different communication tools and strategies, Migrant World Making combines the individualistic and holistic approaches to navigating making a life in an already nationalistic society.  

“We really try to focus on this idea that migration is characterized by lived tensions, by this pull and push of simultaneously having to live two existences at the same time. Even the way that we talk about migration from an internal versus external standpoint is a little bit weird, right? Those are, of course, based on national identities,” Lechuga said.  

Nationalism, an ideology where loyalty and devotion to the nation-state supersedes all else, is impossible to separate from the obstacles migrants face. 

“Nationalism is one of the main challenges that we face today. As nationalism becomes more important and more visible, so does anti-immigration. I think those two go hand-in-hand,” Lechuga said. “Nothing has changed about global migration. People have been migrating for thousands and thousands of years. What's changed is the fact that people have normalized the idea that nation states are rigid and they don't allow other people to come from other places.”  

The timeline is especially crucial, with an emphasis on the contemporary movement and experiences plagued by increasing discrimination. 

“Migrants are time travelers in many senses. This is because we can see the different parts of the world and different societies and move in different places, in different times or in different eras,” Lechuga said. “It's a difference in what our responsibility to our generations are. Many of the folks who are coming to places like the United States would not have been able to do so had it not been for the sacrifices of the generations behind them.”  

World Making Cover

In this contemporary analysis, it’s clear the older methods of word of mouth, scholarly works, and protests do still play a role in establishing migrant livelihood. Still, social media, broadcast media and protests are some of the communication tools invoked to connect migrant communities both internally and externally. 

“There's several case studies that pull from migrant communities on social media talking about their experiences. A lot of the researchers who are migrants themselves are pulling from these testimonies, adding their own testimonies to them, and really creating this multilayer analysis of migration in the United States,” Lechuga said.  

That does not mean these methods of communication are guaranteed to make a difference. One of the consistent uphill battles that migrants are often trekking is to be seen beyond the scope of a talking point and demographic.  

“Migration is obviously an issue, but I think it often just gets conflated with Latinx identity. It's really easy to reduce the Latino experience, and we would really like to get folks to move beyond that. One of the things that we did in our book was to try to question who a migrant is,” Lechuga said.   

In Migrant World Making, that’s tied in with the concept of ‘forever foreigner,’ referenced by author Anjana Mudambi. 

“It is a really interesting term and really builds on this idea that regardless of how well integrated you are into the media, into society, you will always be labeled as a forever foreigner because of the color of your skin,” he said. “In a place where you're a forever foreigner, where you're never going to belong, many of these folks endure a life that's far below the standards of what many of us would tolerate.” 

Instead of thinking of migrants as a group that is entering, Lechuga argues migration does not have to be the irregularity. Think about how to normalize the idea of borders.  

“I think that when we talk about migration, we really need to question who is a migrant and what their motives are. If we're stuck in this nationalist frame, we're always going to see people who migrate as strange or weird. If we were to flip the scripts, then people who stay in one place their whole life are weird,” he said.  

It’s also special as the authors themselves share their own philosophies to describe what the experience of migration means to those who have lived it. After all, every migrant has a different journey to share.   

“When migrants do new things, when they become new people in these new places that they go to, it really is about making a new world,” Lechuga said. “Maybe you don't have an open mind about the possibilities and the values that migrants bring in and the richness that they bring to this world. That's kind of what inspired this book.” 

Lechuga’s Migrant World Making is available for purchase now.