The Islamic Post Blog


International Migrants Day and the Problems of Immigration by Khalida
February 2, 2009, 8:44 am
Filed under: January Volume I- 2009, Latino/Caribe | Tags:

By Khalida Khaleel

Islamic Post Staff Writer

Despite the new law, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), continues to urge the United States to sign the United Nations’ International Treaty for the rights of migrants.  To date, none of the countries comprising the G8 –which group represents the largest economies in the Northern Hemisphere, including France, the United Kingdom, Germany, Japan, Italy, Canada, Russia and the United States—are signatories to the International Convention on the Protection of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families (Resolution 45/158) since its inception in 1990.
At the same time, the flight of refugees and immigrants to G8 nations has increased (with the exception of Russia) since that time. The United States and Canada, especially, see regular influxes of foreign nationals seeking work within their borders and a preservation of their human rights.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) applauded the December 23 signing into law of the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008. The bill became law just after International Migrants Day (December 18), and enhances measures to combat human trafficking. ICE routinely arrests and prosecutes  American and foreign nationals engaged in modern day slavery. ICE also deports the victims of human trafficking.
Although the Wilberforce Trafficking Protection Act should go far to assist those arriving at the shores of America against human trafficking, the problem remains one of global proportions. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has sought to bring to light the deplorable condition of female migrants in particular, who make up 48% of the total immigrant population. Selene Kaye, of the ACLU, reiterated on International Migrants Day that “an estimated 100 million women, mostly from the world’s lesser-developed countries, leave their homes each year and migrate abroad in the hopes of finding a better life.”
Women tend to “turn to domestic work as a means of supporting themselves and their families back home,” making them one of the most susceptible categories of migrants (after children). Ms. Kaye continued, “Unfortunately, language barriers, immigration status, isolation in the home, lack of education, and gender make these women extremely vulnerable … a serious pattern of exploitation and abuse of migrant domestic workers exists around the world.”
“From Southeast Asia to the Middle East, South America to the United States, female domestic workers are routinely trafficked and subjected to conditions of forced labor and servitude,” concluded the ACLU representative.
United Nations Special Reporter on the rights of migrants, Jorge Bustamante, who conducts investigative missions to various countries on behalf of the UN Human Rights Council, gave his opinion in a March 2008, 27-page report about his mission to the United States the previous year, stating that the U.S. “failed to adhere to its international obligations to make the human rights of the 37.5 million migrants living in the country (according to Government census data from 2006) a national priority.” The Special Reporter also highlighted the fact that “cases of indefinite detention – even of migrants fleeing adverse conditions in their home countries – were not uncommon,” according to testimonies he received.
Mr. Bustamante’s report addresses not only the issue of human trafficking, but the plight of migrants in general, who are defined in the report as all non-citizens, those undocumented and those who have legal permission to remain in the country: such as legal permanent residents, work visa holders, and persons with refugee status. The issue of migrant workers, whether there is forced labor involved or not, and including those who are legal or illegal, has been a contentious issue in the past few years.  However, Mr. Bustamante emphasized: “Contrary to popular belief, [the] United States immigration policy did not become more severe after the terrorist attacks of September 11. Drastic changes made in 1996 have been at work for more than a decade, affecting communities across the nation and recent policy changes simply exacerbate what was put in motion then. Also, contrary to popular belief, these policies do not target only undocumented migrants – they apply to citizens born in the United States of undocumented parents and long-term lawful permanent residents (or green card holders) as well.”
The Special Reporter did, however, note with “dismay” that “xenophobia and racism” in American society “towards migrants in the United States has worsened since 9/11. The current xenophobic climate adversely affects many sections of the migrant population, and has a particularly discriminatory and devastating impact on many of the most vulnerable groups, in the migrant population, including children, unaccompanied minors, Haitian and other Afro-Caribbean migrants, and migrants who are, or are perceived to be, Muslim or of South Asian or Middle Eastern descent.”
Shuya Ohno of Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition (MIRA) told Open Media Boston, “Hate crimes, hate radio, hate speech and hate groups are driving our national conversation about immigrants, and dividing our nation. In this time of uncertainty and fear, we are in desperate need of those …whose courage allows them, and whose conscience compels them to speak up against that which is wrong.” Shuya Ohno was speaking at a rally outside Boston’s city hall, where 30 religious and community organizations, gathered in October to make their opinions known about the breakups of families during immigration raids, and also the common perception that immigrants take American jobs.  MIRA instead blames “unscrupulous employers” for bypassing wage laws in their employment of illegal migrant workers, as well as those who are documented but lack an understanding of their rights. According to MIRA, this process allows unfair bottom-line business competition and hurts all workers by driving down wages.
The UN representative concluded in his report that, despite national perceptions of the issue, “The primary task of such a national [immigration] policy should be to recognize that, with the exception of certain rights relating to political participation, migrants should enjoy nearly all the same human rights’ protections as citizens, including an emphasis on meeting the needs of the most vulnerable groups.” -Aisha Spencer contributed to this report.

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