New Books Network Interviewed Dr. Fumilayo Showers about “Migrants Who Care”

As the U.S. population ages and as health care needs become more complex, demand for paid care workers in home and institutional settings has increased. This book draws attention to the reserve of immigrant labour that is called on to meet this need. 

Migrants Who Care: West Africans Working and Building Lives in U.S. Health Care (Rutgers University Press, 2023) by Dr. Fumilayo Showers tells the little-known story of a group of English-speaking West African immigrants who have become central to the U.S. health and long-term care systems. With high human capital and middle-class pre-migration backgrounds, these immigrants – hailing from countries as diverse as Cameroon, Sierra Leone, Ghana, Nigeria, and Liberia – encounter blocked opportunities in the U.S. labour market. They then work in the United States, as home health aides, certified nursing assistants, qualified disability support professionals, and licensed practical and registered nurses.

This book reveals the global, political, social, and economic factors that have facilitated the entry of West African women and men into the health care labour force (home and institutional care for older adults and individuals with physical and intellectual disabilities; and skilled nursing). It highlights these immigrants’ role as labour brokers who tap into their local ethnic and immigrant communities to channel co-ethnics to meet this labour demand. It illustrates how West African care workers understand their work across various occupational settings and segments in the healthcare industry. This book reveals the transformative processes migrants undergo as they become produced, repackaged, and deployed as health care workers after migration.

Ultimately, this book tells the very real and human story of an immigrant group surmounting tremendous obstacles to carve out a labour market niche in health care, providing some of the most essential and intimate aspects of care labour to the most vulnerable members of society.

This interview was conducted by Dr. Miranda Melcher whose new book focuses on post-conflict military integration, understanding treaty negotiation and implementation in civil war contexts, with qualitative analysis of the Angolan and Mozambican civil wars.

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