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Posts Tagged ‘immigration’

Yesterday, feeling angry, horrified, and ashamed and, with less than a week’s notice, 50+ citizens of the USA gathered on the sidewalk below the U.S. Consular Agency office in Oaxaca to protest the inhumane, unconscionable, and illegal actions by “our” government regarding refugees seeking asylum.

Yes, illegal actions!  The following is courtesy of Fact Sheet No.20, Human Rights and Refugees from the United Nations Human Rights, Office of the High Commissioner:

These rights are affirmed, among other civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, for all persons, citizens and non-citizens alike, in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights which together make up the International Bill of Human Rights.

(a) “No one shall be subject to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile” (Universal Declaration of Human Rights, article 9);

(b) “Everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution.” (Universal Declaration of Human Rights, article 14);

(c) “Everyone has the right to a nationality” (Universal Declaration of Human Rights, article 15);

(d) “Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each State” (Universal Declaration of Human rights, article 13; International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, article 12).

What is even more heartbreaking and infuriating, is WHY asylum seekers feel they have no choice but to leave the only homes most have ever known to make a perilous journey of thousands of miles to present themselves at the U.S. border.  Hint:  It’s not “the economy, stupid!”

And, lest you fear that these refugees are MS-13 wolves in sheep’s clothing:

1. MS-13 Is Not Organizing to Foil Immigration Law
2. MS-13 Is Not Posing as Fake Families at the Border
3. MS-13 Is Sticking Around, but It’s Not Growing
4. MS-13 Is Preying on a Specific Community, Not the Country at Large
5. Immigration Raids and Deportation Can Only Go So Far

From the recent article published in ProPublica, I’ve Been Reporting on MS-13 for a Year. Here Are the 5 Things Trump Gets Most Wrong.

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In the last five years one million Mexicans residing in the US have returned to Mexico, including children and youth who were born or raised in the US.  Una Vida, Dos Países presents the stories of these transborder youth, highlighting their experiences living between two countries, cultures, languages and education systems, and exploring their parents’ decisions to return to their home country after living undocumented in the US.

Thirty seconds into the new documentary, Una Vida, Dos Países by Tatyana Kleyn, tears began welling up.  Set in Ciénaga de Zimatlán and Tlacolula de Matamoros, both in the central valley of Oaxaca, the places and faces were so very familiar and it hurt to hear the anguish in their voices and see the sadness in their eyes.

I love Oaxaca and, at this stage of my life, have chosen to immerse myself in a foreign culture.  However, these kids didn’t have a choice.  One day, they are normal “American” kids — going to school, playing with friends, speaking English in bustling towns and cities in the USA.  And the next day, they are uprooted from all that is familiar to find themselves “transfronterizos,” living in small rural pueblos bound by a millennia of tradition, surrounded by strangers who are speaking languages, Spanish and/or Zapoteco, they are either not fluent in or don’t know at all.  In addition, they are forced to navigate a school system that has little or no understanding of the culture shock they are experiencing.

What more can I say?

Early in the film, Melchor’s father says, “This is my family, this is my house, not a beautiful house, but when you want to come here, the door is open for you, for everybody.”  Oh, that governments would exhibit that same generous hospitality.

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According to the Indigenous Farmworker Study (IFS), there are approximately 165,000 indigenous Mexican farmworkers and their children living  in California — with a significant percentage coming from the state of Oaxaca.  Writer and photographer David Bacon has been photographing and interviewing indigenous Mexican migrants working in California’s agricultural fields for many years.  The following Truthout article is from his photo-documentary project, Living Under the Trees, sponsored by the California Council for the Humanities and California Rural Legal Assistance.

Young, at Work in the Fields

by David Bacon

(Photo: Bacon/After Image)

(Photo: Bacon/After Image)

Most young farm-workers in California are migrants from Mexico, especially the south of the country, where many people share an indigenous culture and language. Ricardo Lopez, living in a van with his grandfather in a store parking lot in Mecca, a tiny farmworker town in the Coachella Valley, says working as a migrant without a formal home was no surprise:

This is how I envisioned it would be working here with my grandpa and sleeping in the van. It’s hot at night, and hard to sleep well. There are a lot of mosquitoes, very few services, and the bathrooms are very dirty. At night there are a lot of people here coming and going. You never know what can happen; it’s a bit dangerous. But my grandfather has a lot of experience and knows how to handle himself. With the money I earn I’m going to help my mother and save the rest. I’ll be attending college in the fall at Arizona Western College—my first year. I want to have a good job, a career. I’m not thinking of working in the fields. Not at all. I look at how hard my grandfather has worked. I don’t want to do field work for the rest of my life because it’s so hard and the pay is so low.

Lopez describes the reality for farmworkers in California in a way that gives tangible meaning to the facts and numbers describing farmworker life. There are about 120,000 indigenous Mexican farmworkers in California. Counting the 45,000 children living with them, that is a total of 165,000 people. They are the most recent migrants from Mexico. They speak twenty-three languages, come from thirteen different Mexican states, and have rich cultures of language, music, dance, and food that bind their communities together.

<snip>  Click HERE to read full article.

This project is therefore a reality check. The idea is to give indigenous migrant communities a vehicle they can use to find support for dealing with the social problems they face, such as housing, low wages, and discrimination. This documentary work is not neutral. Its purpose is to help provide a means for people to organize and win support in a world that, at best, treats them as invisible, and at worst demonizes them. I used to be a union organizer, and this work is very similar. Social documentation not only has to have an engagement with reality, but should try to change it.

Click HERE to read full article.

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Around this time of year, the gringo and Canadian (they are adamant they are NOT gringos) population in Oaxaca begins to grow — an increase that will last for the duration of winter.  Called “snowbirds” by the resident ex-pats, they are an eclectic and interesting crowd.  Among them are a couple of talented people with whom I have become acquainted —  San Francisco Bay Area based writer, Robert Adler (who, along with Jo Ann Wexler, publishes the invaluable, Viva Oaxaca) and Seattle photographer, Tom Feher.

Robert and Tom have embarked on an ambitious project interviewing and photographing undocumented immigrants on their arduous and dangerous journey from Mexico and Central America, en-route to El Norte.  The result is to be a traveling exhibition of 24 to 30 of near life-size images on narrow aluminum sheets designed to be hung from the ceiling and accompanied by a booklet with the biography of each immigrant.  The exhibition will be called, I Have a Name — the title coming from a neighbor of Tom’s, “who, having hired a Latino man to do some work, refused to call him by his right name and referred to him only as “the Mexican”, even though he was from Guatemala. ”

The decision to leave all that is known and loved for distant country and alien culture is not undertaken lightly.  The creators of this project hope, in the words of Robert, that the exhibit, “will convey what we’ve been learning firsthand–that it’s one thing to have a concept such as ‘migrant,’ ‘migrant worker,’ ‘undocumented worker,’ or ‘illegal alien,’ and quite another to know people as individuals with their own names, faces, life stories and dreams.”

This is an expensive project and Robert and Tom need your help to bring I Have a Name to fruition.  They have mounted a fundraising campaign on the crowd-finding site, Indiegogo.  Please consider helping them raise $25,000 before their November 25, 2013 deadline.

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Another revealing article by one of my favorite journalists, David Bacon

What real immigration reform would look like

Clue: It’s Not a New Guest Worker Program

By David Bacon

Oralia Maceda, an immigrant mother from Oaxaca, asked the obvious question recently. At a meeting, talking about the Senate immigration reform bill, she wanted to know why Senators would spend almost $50 billion on more border walls, yet show no interest in why people leave home to cross them.

This Congressional blindness will get worse as immigration reform moves to the House. It condemns U.S. immigration policy to a kind of punitive venality, making rational political decisions virtually impossible. Yet alternatives are often proposed by migrant communities themselves, and reflect a better understanding of global economics and human rights.

Rufino Dominguez, who now works for the Oaxacan state government, describes what Maceda knows from experience: “NAFTA forced the price of corn so low it’s not economically possible to plant a crop anymore. We come to the U.S. to work because there’s no alternative.” The reason for the fall in prices, according to Timothy Wise of the Global Development and Environment Institute, is that corn imports to Mexico from the U.S. rose from 2,014,000 to 10,330,000 tons from 1992 to 2008.

Mexico imported 30,000 tons of pork in 1995, the year NAFTA took effect, and 811, 000 tons in 2010. This primarily benefited one company, Smithfield Foods, which now sells over 25% of all the pork in Mexico. Mexico, however, lost 120,000 hog-farming jobs alone. The World Bank says extreme rural poverty jumped from 35% to 55% after NAFTA took effect due to “the sluggish performance of agriculture, stagnant rural wages, and falling real agricultural prices.”

Read full article HERE.

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And now a pause in the Semana Santa coverage…

The following article is part of the cover story project in the April 9 issue of The Christian Science MonitorWeekly magazine.  It’s long, but I encourage you to click on it and read the full article.

Home again in Mexico: Illegal immigration hits net zero

Tiny Tamaula is the new face of rural Mexico: Villagers are home again as the illegal immigration boom drops to net zero

By Sara Miller Llana, Staff writer / April 8, 2012

Tamaula, Mexico – At this time of year in this tiny rural outpost that sits on a mountainside in Guanajuato State, most able-bodied men are gone. They’re off plucking and cutting chicken in processing plants in Georgia or pruning the backyards of Seattle.

But this year, Pedro Laguna and his wife, Silvia Arellano, are clearing rocks from their yard to prepare a field for corn. They’ve returned home to Tamaula, Mexico, with their four young children, after 20 years in the United States working illegally. Pedro’s cousin Jorge Laguna and his brothers are planting garbanzo beans in the plot behind their father’s home. Their next-door neighbor Gregorio Zambrano is also home: One recent morning he badgered a visiting social worker for funds to start a honey=production enterprise.

Since the Monitor last visited here in 2007, a major demographic shift has transformed this dusty village of 230. Migrants have come home, and with them have come other important changes. In 2007, there was no running water, no high school, no paved roads. A simple water pipeline, installed in February, runs to each of the 50-some homes. On a recent day the first high school class, including eight students ages 15 to 40, was finishing up math homework. And now, the main roads are paved.

“We can turn on the water and wash our clothes,” says Pedro’s uncle, Rodolfo Laguna, who spent 12 years working illegally in a chicken plant in Athens, Ga., before returning home in 2010 after both he and his son lost their jobs.

This is the new face of rural Mexico. Villages emptied out in the 1980s and ’90s in one of the largest waves of migration in history. Today there are clear signs that a human tide is returning to towns both small and large across Mexico.

One million Mexicans said they returned from the US between 2005 and 2010, according to a new dem-ographic study of Mexican census data. That’s three times the number who said they’d returned in the previous five-year period.

And they aren’t just home for a visit: One prominent sociologist in the US has counted “net zero” migration for the first time since the 1960s.

Experts say the implications for both nations are enormous – from the draining of a labor pool in the US to the need for a radical shift in policies in Mexico, which has long depended on the billions of dollars in migrant remittances as a social welfare cornerstone.

“The massive return of migrants will have implications at the micro and macro economic levels and will have consequences for the social fabric … especially for the structure of the Mexican family,” says Rodolfo Casillas, a migration expert at the Latin American School of Social Sciences in Mexico City.   [Read full article]

 

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… let us walk together.  And we, in Oaxaca city, have been for the past several weeks thanks to Oaxaca born artist Alejandro Santiago.

The streets and sidewalks around Santo Domingo have been peopled with “La Ruta del Migrante – Caminemos Juntos,” his heart wrenching sculptures representing the 2,501 migrantes, men and women, who have left his pueblo of San Pedro Teococuilco almost deserted.

No two sculptures are the same; each is a tribute to the unique individuals who, most certainly with great reluctance, left the homes of their families and ancestors to make their way north in search of jobs.  The pain in their contorted bodies, their faces, and their feet causes me to pause every time I pass.  I’ll let the images speak for themselves and ask the questions societies all over the world need to answer.

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These migrantes on the streets of Oaxaca are scheduled to disappear at the end of the month and I don’t know where they are next headed.  However, two documentaries have been made about Santiago’s tribute to migrantes:  Twenty Five Hundred & One by Patricia Van Ryker and 2501 Migrants: A Journey directed by Yolanda Cruz.

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I don’t know the details or even if it is all that it is cracked up to be.  However, I can’t help but wonder… Where is the USA?

Ceramic sculptures of immigrants“La Ruta del Migrante” exhibit by Alejandro Santiago, in front of Santo Domingo in Oaxaca de Juárez (more on this exhibit to come)

Oaxaca’s Government and UFCW Canada Sign Agreement to Protect Mexican Migrant Workers in Canada

OAXACA, MEXICO–(Marketwire -01/17/12)- Migrant workers from the Mexican state of Oaxaca traveling to Canada will receive better protection this 2012 season after the signing of an agreement between the Instituto Oaxaqueno de Atencion a Migrantes (IOAM) and UFCW Canada.

On Monday, Wayne Hanley, National President of UFCW Canada, and Rufino Dominguez, Director of the IOAM signed a co-operation agreement to protect and assist Oaxacan migrants working temporarily in Canada. The agreement addresses issues of human rights, labor rights and social security, proposing a framework for transnational cooperation.

“Mexican migrant workers make an enormous contribution to the Canadian society and economy,” says National President Hanley. “This must be acknowledged and we look forward to working with Mexican institutions to improve the living and working conditions of Mexican migrant workers in Canada.”

UFCW Canada and the IOAM will collaborate to increase the level of protection of Oaxacan migrants before, during and after their stay in Canada. From now on, Oaxacan workers will be assisted in Canada through the network of 10 agriculture worker support centers operated by UFCW Canada in association with the Agriculture Workers Alliance (AWA).

The centres offer Spanish-speaking staff who deal with legal support services and training in human rights, labor rights, housing, and health and safety problems. Services also include a toll-free telephone assistance number from anywhere in Canada and Mexico, both for workers and their families.

Meanwhile, the IOAM will benefit from workshops offered by UFCW Canada to insure workers receive proper information about their rights. The plan of action will therefore focus not only on legal assistance, but also on prevention, information, and training of migrant workers. The program will also will help the migrant workers access Canadian legal benefits to which they are entitled.

The IOAM consolidates its commitment to the people of Oaxaca, actively developing policies to protect its citizens abroad. Other actors who have joined this international cooperation strategy with UFCW Canada include the governments of Michoacan, Tlaxcala and Distrito Federal, as well as two of the biggest agricultural workers labour federations. In this spirit of cooperation, the federal temporary worker programs will continue to be an important link for labour between Mexico and Canada, and these cooperation partnerships will strengthen the programs by involving all the strategic partners to ensure the workers’ experience is fair, safe and productive.

Contact:

UFCW Mexico
Andrea Galvez Gonzalez
3300 6144
Cell: 55 31 26 24 21
andrea.galvez@ufcw.mx
www.ufcw.ca

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When “progress” isn’t progress; another thought provoking article that discusses what NAFTA hath wrought…

Donkey in corn field

After NAFTA, Mexican farmers sow uncertainty
by:  Mike Wold

Agribusiness and US policy clash with Campesino culture

The donkeys began to sing to each other as it got dark — starting with a honking bray from one far down in the bottom of the valley, then another answering from up on the hillside, then a third from a little way down the dirt road running by Eleazar García’s house. The road itself was empty by now; even earlier it couldn’t have been called busy — a group of schoolgirls in their white uniforms; a pickup truck with empty burlap sacks in the back; a battered van bringing farmers back from Nochixtlán, the market town two hours away.  I’d been in rural Mexico before but never had a chance to watch the light change as the sun sank below the western hills.

<snip>

Supporting small farming in Mexico is a win-win scenario for both the U.S. and Mexico.  But instead, the U.S. has successfully pushed Mexico into an export-oriented agricultural model that assumes depopulation in the rural areas, as large agribusiness replaces small-scale farmers in places like Oaxaca. Many of the displaced farmers will, as a matter of course, migrate north to work in maquiladoras (manufacturing operations) on the border or they will cross to the United States. In other words, the development model the two governments have adopted makes migration inevitable. 

There’s no profit for corporations in helping people stay on the land, where they’re insulated from the ups and downs of the world economy. But, as García put it: “If you really want to combat hunger in the world, it’s in the hands of campesinos. They live on what they grow. It’s important that people begin to understand that.”  [Full article]

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