Thursday, November 04, 2010

At the PGA: Migrant Rights Unite Us Across Borders

Salaam from the third day here at the People´s Global Action on Migration here in Mexico City!

By Monami Maulik

I am here at the People's Global Action gathering in Mexico City with with my colleague, Ayesha Mahmooda. Ayesha is a former youth member of DRUM and current Worker Organizer and has lived undocumented in the U.S. for 19 years until winning her deportation case this year.

I am excited to be here together representing South Asian and Muslim communities in the U.S. who are members of DRUM-Desis Rising Up & Moving. DRUM organizes a membership of over 1,000 South Asian and Muslim low-wage workers and youth who are fighting for their rights as migrants in the U.S.

We Raise Our Voices From New York to Mexico

DRUM played a major role in hosting the first ever People´s Global Assembly in New York City in 2005 as the UN released its report after the Global Commission on Migration and Development process. I had the chance also to testify at the last GCMD in Mexico City in 2005 about the need to de-link migration policy from national security.

In New York City DRUM hosted over 50 migrant leaders from Latin America, Asia, and Europe in our community of Jackson Heights. Bangladeshi women, who spoke no Spanish, shared our traditional food with Latin American women migrant leaders who spoke no English -- but they understood each other´s struggle without words. Later that week, we organized a town-hall and action at the UN as we saw the increasing importance this global process would take over the next decade.

We did not want unaccountable governments, private corporations and exploitative international institutions like the World Bank to decide our futures for us.

We decided that DRUM must raise the voice of migrant people ourselves in this global process towards human rights for migrants, rather than allowing the GFMD to only view migrants as tools to make greater profits for sending and receiving nations and corporations.

Migrant Rights Unite Us Across Borders

We are very honored and excited to be present at this international gathering with hundreds of migrant rights leaders from across the globe. We are humbled to be in Mexico, from where many of the 14 million undocumented brothers and sisters of ours in the U.S. come from. We see the dignity and pride in the faces of workers here, of indigenous people and the poor who are displaced by NAFTA yet continue to struggle for a better world. Mexico has a rich history and legacy of the workers and poor waging revolutionary movements for equity and human rights for all people.

On opening day of the PGA, I spoke on the welcome plenary about the need to unite across nationalities, both within the U.S. and globally, to challenge the 'national security' framework that is destroying the rights of migrants around the world.

The U.S after September 11, 2010 has created and spread this model of permanently placing all issues of migration as a permanent threat to national security, stoking exaggerated fears of terrorism. In the U.S., this has meant the mass raids, deportations and unjust imprisonment of thousands of Muslim immigrants. But it has not ended there and will only increase for all communities of color.

The national security paradigm in the U.S. has fundamentally channeled billions of dollars and unparalleled law enforcement resources towards the immigration enforcement regime of the Department of Homeland Security -- both in the interior and by hyper militarizing the borders.

This is at the same time that the US is waging endless wars and occupations that have murdered over 1.5 million people in the Middle East and South Asia since 2002. As the mothers of victims of this attack on Muslims in our membership say, "The government is manufacturing terrorists out of poor migrant workers in order to justify its endless wars abroad and security regime."

Yesterday, as we participated in a roundtable on National Security & Migrant Rights, this same story was told by half a dozen people from all over the world -- from Thailand to Mali, from Holland to Mexico. I learned that in Mexico, the government is copying the U.S. model and converted its national Migration Institute into the National Security Institute. Moreover, the Mexican government has opened up "Migration Centers" as National Security detention facilities that are top secret, deny access to lawyers and others, and use abusive tactics on migrants.

Under the national security paradigm, the end goal here is the same as everywhere : to permanently by-pass human rights and accountability and to justify non-transparency and the abuse of migrant people. A Haitian migrant leader from the Dominican Republic spoke about how Haitian migrants in the DR are being detained as 'national security' threats by claiming they will create crimes and degrade the environment.

Human Rights and Sustainable Development Make Us Safer

Today, we held a formal workshop on "National Security & Human Rights of Migrants" and drafted proposals that will be presented to the governments at their Global Forum on Migration and Development, where civil society will pressure the governments:
1) De-link migration policy from National Security globally, and
2) Reject the framework of National Security and replace it with "Human Security" -- that when human rights and access to sustainable development are provided for all, communities and nations are safest.

We are raising the issue of national security at the GFMD even though the U.S. government has been silent on the issue. We know that the U.S. is actively promoting this new tool to suppress rights and accountability behind closed doors with other governments. As Muslim migrants in the U.S., we are building bridges with our colleagues globally because we see that our organizing for human rights are interdependent and that none of us can win alone.


Monami Maulik
Executive Director, DRUM-Desis Rising Up & Moving

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