Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Migration, elections, and how we remember migrant deaths

Dispatch #1 from the Peoples’ Global Action on Migration, Mexico City

By Pedro Rios

Yesterday on November 2, hundreds of social justice and human rights defenders from over 70 countries gathered in Mexico City in the opening session of the 5th assembly of the Peoples’ Global Action on Migration, Development, and Human Rights (PGA). Concerned with how governments treat migration on a global scale, over the next few days delegates will be discussing how to force a more transparent process in government discussions that seek to market and commodify migrant workers.

The context for this meeting is ever more pressing given the results of the mid-term elections in the U.S. that project a right-wing and regressive politics for migration issues. If political campaigns are any indication of how intolerable conditions have become for migrants, the new Congressional make-up and its vicious Tea Party influence paints a bleak future for addressing issues of vulnerability for migrants in the US. Those vying for political power from throughout the political spectrum promote a calloused and accepted bigotry that frames migration as a dehumanized process, whereby migrants are portrayed as degenerates.

"Managed Migration" or the Privatization of Migration Control?

From this vantage point, governments (and their corresponding corporations, or vise-versa) respond to migration as a phenomenon that needs to be managed, controlled, marketed, and exploited. This is a dangerous proposition if the US exports immigration proposals at the global level: that the function of governments in response to reactionary tendencies is to manage migration like a corporate outfit.

It appears this has been the pattern with increased neo-liberal economic agreements around the world, intensified by militaristic projects. This latter part becomes much more alarming when it is infused and promoted by a sector of society that is ultra-nationalist, reminiscent of repressive regimes that shame our collective human history.

In Mexico City the PGA represents a refreshing moment, that at the global level, migrants’ rights advocates continue to push for a framework on development centered on more humanistic proposals. The belief that migrants are social agents capable of dialogue and producing solutions to global social, economic, and political problems is a necessary perspective missing in government and corporate meetings on the issue. Missing also is the foundation that projects of economic development should promote sustainable ways of living, that their commitment should be for how communities could remain whole.

At this convergence on migration, development, and human rights, delegates are insisting on the need to break the corporate paradigm that defines structures and mechanisms dealing with migration around the world, and offer something different, something new.

Remembering the Fallen Migrants, Organizing for Human Rights

Recalling the 72 migrants that were assassinated in Tamaulipas earlier this year, as well as the surge in border deaths this fiscal year and all who have perished along the migratory routes around the world, it was appropriate that delegates held a moment of silence on November 2, on Día de los Muertos.

While throughout Mexico and Latin America, and throughout cities in the United States, communities commemorate Día de los Muertos with altares, a day in which those who have passed are remembered and their lives celebrated, here at the Convento San Hipólito, where the main PGA plenary sessions are held, this recollection represented an affirmation that migrant lives matter.

I believe it is this insistence that we share as delegates: The need to re-frame development with alternative economic models, the need to find ways of making migration an option and not a necessity for survival, and the need to ensure that human rights mechanisms are integrated into development models that will frame how our communities will interact with each other for years to come.

Pedro Rios is the director of the American Friends Service Committee's U.S.-Mexico Border Program in San Diego, CA.

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