Declaration of Los Angeles

Reform, Integration, Rights – key issues addressed by the SI Migrations Committee in Los Angeles, 22 June 2008

The Migrations Committee of the Socialist International met in Los Angeles, California, on 2-3 June 2008. The 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, was attended by leaders of the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), organisations and academics from the United States and other representatives of member parties and observers of the SI from Europe, Africa, and Latin America and the Caribbean.

It is important to point out that current migrations take place in the framework of North-South relations and of the challenge of ensuring a fair distribution of wealth across the globe.

According to the analysis presented by California State Senator Gil Cedillo (D-CA), the United States have required labour without providing citizens’ rights. Notably, Los Angeles County has more than one third of its 9.9 million residents and nearly half its workforce comprised of immigrants. California is the 8th largest economy in the world and the richest State in the American Union. Migrant workers contribute very significantly to its prosperity and they must be supported with measures that guarantee full respect for the rights of people who contribute to the development of this nation.

The meeting of the Migrations Committee of the SI took place just after the end of the Democratic Party primaries, with the next stage being the National Convention in Denver, at which the party will select its candidates for President and Vicepresident of the USA. Speeches were made that highlighted the need for the current presidential candidates to return to implementing a comprehensive migration reform agenda, which takes into account the existence of 13 million people with no identity documents, who are living and working in the USA and are essential for the operation and growth of the North American economy.

The recession currently affecting the US economy is causing unemployment among migrant workers in areas like construction and farming. The real estate crisis that triggered the recession, as a foretaste of a much deeper crisis in the current economic model, is associated with the fact that 50% of people buying a first home were migrants, particularly Latinos. Now, with the increase in migration requirements for access to property finance and mortgages, this percentage has plummeted.

With the derailment on Capitol Hill of the overall migration reform process, xenophobia and anti-immigrant laws have increased in cities, counties and states. These have made living conditions harder for immigrants, increasing raids in workplaces and housing areas, promoted by media campaigns run by the most racist and conservative groups in the United States.

One example of this is the building of a wall along the border between Mexico and the United States. Meanwhile, deaths are increasing among people daring to cross the desert and other dangerous areas for migrating workers travelling from Mexico and Central American countries like Guatemala and El Salvador.

The Migration Committee of the SI believes that an urgent, complete, fair and comprehensive migration reform is vital to ensure respect for the rights of workers, whether or not they have identity documents, in order to prevent migrants being associated with terrorists and allow families to be reunited.

The University of California Academics who attended the SI Migration Committee meeting pointed out that a progressive stance needs to be taken with regard to the dominant belief in US society that Migration must be linked to Security and the strengthening of borders. The legalisation and incorporation of migrant workers and their families into North American society is a much more efficient security mechanism than the implementation of punitive measures.

Delegates from Central American parties explained the complexity of migration, which is often associated exclusively with criminal gangs like the so-called Maras, which originated in the large cities of North America and are now having serious repercussions on Central American society, without the United States taking any responsibility for the phenomenon.

They also pointed out the urgent need to achieve an agreement between Central American countries and Mexico to ensure that the human and labour rights of migrants are respected during their journey through Mexico. They highlighted the fact that a strategy of joint negotiation with the US government is required in order jointly to promote the legalisation of the millions of Central Americans currently working in the US economy, whose remittances account for 20% of the Gross Domestic Product of countries like El Salvador. Also underlined was the urgent need for both developed and developing countries to sign the United Nations Convention on the Protection of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families, in order to ensure respect for the human rights of migrants.

Other regions are experiencing intense migration. Migratory flows between Africa and Europe continue to grow. Because of its geographical position, Morocco, for example, is now not only a country of origin but also a country of reception and transit for Subsaharan migrants.

Illegal migration in this area of the world, as well as in others, highlights the need of dealing with this aspect of migration on a multilateral basis that allows for co-operation in the management of borders. In any case, the fight against illegal migration must be dealt with on a global basis, respecting the rights of migrants, in particular of women and children. Shared responsibility between host countries and countries of origin also leads to the better management of migration.

One important aspect which participants dealt with was the urgent need for the countries of origin of migrant people to strengthen their consular protection systems in transit and destination countries, in order to provide legal and humanitarian assistance to their respective nationals. Emphasis was also put on the need to implement social protection systems in these countries for the families of migrants, particularly children, women and elderly people, who are left in a vulnerable situation by migration. Equally, it is necessary to implement support programmes for deportees, avoiding their criminalisation and helping them to re-integrate into society and work. In the same context, the need for return and support programmes to be established for migrants wishing to invest in their countries of origin was highlighted.

Various participants spoke about the feminisation of migration, pointing out that women and children in particular must be protected in host countries because their physical and moral integrity are at risk. Participation and protection programmes need to be established for women and children, for which agreements need to be signed with national and humanitarian organisations. Equally, policies and programmes need to be established that facilitate family reunifications and protect women against the risk of human trafficking for the purposes of prostitution.

Migration, which is as old as humanity, has taken on a global dimension and an unprecedented level of complexity. It is therefore crucial for international political organisations like the SI, as well as regional and multilateral bodies like the OAS and the UN, vigorously to include migration issues in their agendas for discussion, striving to reach global agreements on this phenomenon, in the knowledge that only human development, accompanied by better income distribution policies, will allow incentives for international migration to be reduced.

This meeting also dealt with the world food crisis, which is currently one of the causes that may lead to migration. It is considered fundamental for governments to establish mechanisms to guarantee the supply of food to the whole population of the planet and policies to modernise and mechanise the countryside with the involvement and support of agricultural producers. It is also essential to implement offsetting policies in high migration regions to promote education, quality of life, and productive projects that generate employment, so that people don’t have to leave their community and country.

Amalia García Medina, Chairman of the SI Migration Committee, presented an initial draft Report to the 23rd SI Conference, which was distributed to participants to allow them to submit their proposals for inclusion in the report as soon as possible. The report will then be distributed to all delegates at the Athens Conference.