The International Centre for Migration, Health and Development is a Swiss-based non-profit institution that was established in 1995. Its mandate is to work on research, training and policy advocacy in all areas related to migration and health.
ICMHD is a WHO Collaborating Centre for health-related issues among people displaced by conflict and disaster and a UNFPA implementing partner on reproductive health issues in situations of crisis.
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Category Archives: Arizona immigration reform
This is an opinion. It is not necessarily supported or shared by the entirety of ICMHD.
The most commonly utilised point of entry for migrants crossing the border from Mexico to the US over the past number of years is also one of the most deadly. This entry point is a 420 km (261 mi) stretch of land in Southern Arizona, which is part of the Sonora Desert, and it is where about 200 would-be clandestine migrants die each year. According to reports, there have been 214 deaths since 1 October, 2009. One of ICMHD’s staffers ran across this news report the other day, which raises some interesting questions, concerns and possible discussion.
Connect to this video report at link below:
According to their website, No More Deaths/No Mas Muertes is an organisation that is working to uphold fundamental human rights by stopping these deaths from happening. Their mission works under the following themes:
• Direct aid that extends the right to provide humanitarian assistance
• Witnessing and responding
• Consciousness raising
• Global movement building
• Encouraging humane immigration policy.
This organisation, lead by their beliefs, have organised camps and other drop off points that provide aid in the form of water, food, and medical assistance to migrants crossing the US-Mexico border via the Arizona desert.
There can be no doubt in peoples’ mind that the service that No More Deaths provides is life-saving and that it delivers a strong humanitarian message about ameliorating the human cost of clandestine migration. But this also lends itself to a discussion of America’s migration policy and whether or not it is doing the job it is meant to do, particularly when speaking about the ‘business’ of migration at the US-Mexico border.
With the current situation, neither the migrant nor the American public is winning. Clandestine migrants in the US are often only able to do the jobs that people who are legally in the US don’t want to do (at least not at the low pay they receive): construction work, hard labor, low level agricultural jobs, dishwashers, caring after children or the elderly, etc. They are also often treated badly, exploited and made to be political scapegoats because they don’t have any legal rights. The general American public is not gaining from the situation either, as people in the country illegally are not paying taxes or contributing to the social services they also use. They are not giving back to the country that is hosting them, because they don’t have the right to be there. There is something to be said, however, about Mexico’s position in all of this. Due to the monetary remittances sent from these migrants to their families at home in Mexico, the country is bringing in an extra 15-20 billion USD per year. At the same time, however, there is a drain on Mexico’s workforce due to these migrants’ movements. The majority of the people who migrate are healthy, young, and strong individuals, people who could be doing much to improve the economic and social situation in their home country.
Instead of focusing on keeping people on certain sides of a country boundary, the US should reform its immigration laws, and enforce protection for all workers within its borders. Migrants who are in the US, supporting the foundation of its workforce from the shadows, should be provided the rights that they deserve, while simultaneously being asked to contribute to the country in which they are living. Work should be done in Mexico as well, however, to strengthen and develop the social and economic situation in order to provide more opportunities for people to take care of themselves and their families within their own borders.
Everyone should have the right to move and to migrate, but everyone should also have the means to take care of themselves and their loved ones within their own support system of family and friends.
Migration Reform in Arizona
Dr. Manuel Carballo
The recent decision by Arizona state criminalizing illegal migrants has once again opened the debate on the management of migrants and migration in the United States. The Arizona state law requires police officers to check a person’s immigration status when the person has been involved in another offense, and if and when the officer has reasonable cause to suspect the person is in the country illegally. The law also permits Arizona residents to sue police departments if and when they feel the new law is not being enforced – a provision related to “sanctuary cities,” where local government officials refuse to enforce anti-illegal-immigration laws. It is clearly a law that is open to abuse and is designed to make the lives of migrants more difficult.
That Arizona should be the place for this discussion is not altogether inappropriate. Arizona state has one of the longest histories of migration in the USA. Indeed, migrants and migration have always been the backbone of the state’s development. The first migrants in Arizona arrived from Asia across the Bering Strait some 12,000 years ago and settled the area. It was not until the 17th century that more settlers began to arrive, primarily from Spain and other Hispanic countries. This was followed by an Anglo migration that began with the opening up of the West of the USA and the building of the railroads in the 1880s. Then, in 1945, at the end of World War II, migration to Arizona began to grow at a faster pace, and between 1990 and 1998 accelerated even more.
Migration is a complex process and is largely governed by supply and demand forces. In recent years, Arizona has experienced a large influx of migrants from Mexico, many of whom were driven by chronic poverty. This same reason led to the migration of people from Europe to the USA in the 19th and 20th centuries. The demand for “new blood” in the USA is much the same as the demand that is now emerging in North America and Europe in general. Falling birth rates are rapidly distorting the natural capacity of countries to meet their labor and social security requirements. As fewer nationals enter the labor market, the need for others to fulfill the jobs is growing. Similarly, as the number of nationals in a position to contribute to social security decreases, pension and health care systems need new tax payers to keep these systems vibrant. This is not simply a challenge for Arizona. It has become a major challenge for most of the post-industrial world and all projections suggest it will continue to be a major requirement for many years to come.
All of this to say that migration is here to stay and has become a lifeline for the countries and the communities that migrants move to, as well as it is to the countries and families they leave behind. When migrants arrive, they do the work that others are no longer available or willing to do, and they usually do it for cheaper rates. They have become the carers of children and the elderly, the cleaners of houses and restaurants, the ones who do occasional menial work and who help maintain agriculture. While they do this they also try to save what little they can to help support desperate families back home. In doing so, they have become a vital source of income for developing countries as well as an equally vital source of cheap labor for developed countries.
Migration, however, is never simple. Psychologically and emotionally it is not easy to uproot and leave spouses, children and parents behind, especially not knowing if and when they will be able to see each other again. Living and working alone in distant foreign countries is not straightforward either. Even under the best of circumstances it is often nerve-racking and a major source of chronic homesickness and stress.
The stress of migration is now being made all the worse by the Arizona law and other similar laws and attitudes that are emerging or being talked about in many countries. Schizophrenic situations are being created at a time in history when migrants are needed more than ever and when communities have become more dependent on them than before, and when some people are saying that they do not want them, and are enacting or calling for laws that are intended to make the lives and wellbeing of these essential workers all the more difficult and fragile.
All of this is not to say that migration should not be managed. Indeed, it should be, and much more work is called for if we are to organize and structure modern migration in a way that is good for everyone. But there should also be no doubt in anyone’s mind that migrants today are a vital part of the global economy, and an essential part of the day-to-day life of communities throughout North America and Europe. Actions that intentionally or unintentionally eat away at the mental health and wellbeing of the people caught up in answering to the economic supply and demand forces of today’s world are retrogressive, unethical and unrealistic. They are counter-productive at best, and at worst are a major set back to social development.
A few links to data on migration statistics and the new immigration legislation in Arizona: