Reform, Integration, Rights – key issues addressed by the SI Migrations Committee in Los Angeles
2-3 June 2008
Convening in Los Angeles on 2-3 June 2008 for its final session before the XXIII SI Congress, the Socialist International Migrations Committee rounded up its series of regional discussions, which in this inter-Congress period have also been held in Philippines, Greece, Turkey, Moldova, Morocco and Mexico.
At this meeting, opened by the Secretary General of the SI, Luis Ayala, and by the Governor of the State of Zacatecas and Chair of the Committee, Amalia García Medina, members of the Committee and guests from Dominican Republic, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Greece, Guatemala, Italy, Mexico, Morocco, Netherlands, Turkey, the USA and Venezuela, were joined by California Senator Gil Cedillo, representatives of various North American non-governmental organisations working with immigrant communities, by academics from US and Mexican universities, and an official of the Los Angeles Community Board District.
The relevance of Los Angeles to the question of migrations was highlighted, being unique in the size of its immigrant population, with more than a third of its 9.9 million residents comprised of immigrants, the largest such community in the United States. California was in itself the 8th largest economy in the world and the richest State in the Union, owing its prosperity in significant measure to its migrant workers. The large presence of unauthorised and mixed-status families and the growing size of the second generation in Los Angeles typified the need for comprehensive immigrant reform legislation as well as the necessary measures to give immigrants the skills and confidence to engage more fully in the social and civic life of the city.
Focusing first on current developments in the United States with regard to migratory issues, the Committee addressed the theme “North America: Comprehensive immigration reform and civil and human rights”. Senator Cedillo, in his analysis of the situation, shed light on the existing legislation which fell short of responding to the real needs and on the collapse of comprehensive immigration reform legislation in the US Congress. It was noted that the United States as a whole included some 13 million undocumented migrant workers who lived and worked in the country, playing a key role in the functioning and growth of the US economy, an issue which needed to be addressed meaningfully, combining higher levels of legal, permanent immigration with programmes for temporary work which protected the rights of both temporary migrant and domestic workers.
Taking the example of Los Angeles in terms of the positive impact of migration, delegates also discussed “Promoting diversity: the role of cities and urban areas in immigrant integration” as the second theme, noting the dynamic, multicultural “mosaic” which the city had become. However, it was noted that in the absence of a national integration policy, it was largely left to state and local governments to implement ad hoc programmes, a matter which required serious attention nationwide and upon which the future vitality of the country’s cities and economy depended. In this regard, basic citizens’ rights needed to be enhanced in areas such as access to affordable health care, quality schooling, higher education, and job opportunities, in order to properly engage all in the civic life of the country.
“Global economic instability and immigrant workers’ rights” was the third theme of the debates, at a time when worldwide financial turmoil and insecurity continued to jeopardise the position of an already vulnerable section of society. It was underlined that resistance to migration from the South had increased due to security fears, economic uncertainty and mounting racism, a typical expression of which could be seen in the construction of the wall along the Mexico-US border. The 2,000 mile US-Mexican border highlighted, more than anywhere else in the world, the contiguous, side-by-side meeting of the developing and the developed worlds. Participants stressed the urgent need for greater cooperation between countries of origin and destination, as well as transit countries, in order to provide adequate social protection for migrants, especially for women and children, and support programmes for those deported, who should not be criminalised, but rather should be helped to be reinstated into the social and labour fabric of their countries. Similarly, programmes were needed to help migrants wishing to return to and contribute to the economies of their countries of origin.
At the conclusion of its debates, the Committee agreed on a Declaration of Los Angeles and exchanged views on its report to be presented to the forthcoming SI Congress.