Immigration

A Historic UN Agreement on Global Migration

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Last week, UN member states finalized the text of an agreement that has been in development for more than a year. Called “The Global Compact for Safe, Orderly, and Regular Migration”, the agreement recognizes that transborder migration is an international phenomenon which can be successfully managed through international cooperation. The agreement also recognizes the right of every individual to safety, dignity and protection in the inevitable and global transition of people across national borders.

The compact respects the sovereignty of individual states and imposes no legally binding dictates that govern when and how migration will occur. It also does not aim to encourage or discourage migration in general. But it does provide a management resource, or guide, that can help states proactively prepare for immigration and emigration events.

This comprehensive framework directly addresses some of the thorniest issues that migration presents, for example, how to balance state sovereignty and human rights, how to determine the effect of mobility on economic development, and how to determine what constitutes voluntary movement.

The agreement will ideally diffuse the most dangerous, exploitative, and chaotic aspects of transborder migration and support elements of safety, social cohesion, and economic progress.

This document also represents the power of multilateral approaches to international problems, a timely message in an age of increasing human transition.

Speaking on the subject of migration, Special Representative for International Migration Louise Arbour stated, “Its chaotic, dangerous exploitative aspects cannot be allowed to become a new normal.”

Please feel free to read the text of the agreement here! And enjoy some promising news in an uncertain global migration landscape.

 

Family Separation at the US Border: The UN Finally Speaks Out

The practice of separating families—including the removal of very young children from the custody of their parents—has put into place by two immigration-related executive orders passed in January of 2017, then formally announced by attorney general Jeff Sessions in May of 2018. These policies have been implemented by the Trump administration, despite claims by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency that the administration “does not have a blanket policy on separating families as a deterrent” to would-be asylum seekers. (And despite claims by Trump himself that the practice existed before 2017).

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Some confusion has arisen over this policy and practice during the month that has elapsed between the attorney general’s announcement and the present, with slightly misleading statements made and parsed regarding the “loss” of approximately 1,400 children who were placed in the care of sponsors who later could not be reached for updates on their welfare or whereabouts.

But while the argument can be made that children placed with sponsors can’t and should not be tracked by federal agencies, one disturbing aspect of this jumbled narrative is clear: Since October of 2017, several hundred children of Central American asylum seekers have been forcibly removed from their parents—without recourse or explanation-- as part of a “zero tolerance” illegal immigration policy and the resulting criminal prosecutions applied to those who cross “irregularly”. These separations have been overtly used as a deterrent by the Trump administration, and as of June 5, 2018, the United Nations has formally spoken out against the practice.

United Nations human rights office spokeswoman Ravina Shamdasani called upon the United States to immediately halt the practice as she spoke to reporters in Geneva. “The practice of separating families amounts to arbitrary and unlawful interference in family life, and is a serious violation of the rights of the child. The use of immigration detention and family separation as a deterrent runs counter to human rights standards and principles,” she said.

Shamdasani made clear that this form of family separation flouts international human rights laws, to which the US is subject.

As it happens, this formal announcement has been released days after Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley attempted to visit an immigration detention center in Texas and was denied access, during a video taped scene in which the Senator was mysteriously forbidden from entering the facility, a former Wal-Mart with blacked out windows. No explanations have yet been provided and no information has been shared regarding who occupies the building and what conditions exist inside.

The UN announcement may result in an increased attempt to provide transparency or course corrections, but this is a disturbing turn of events in a nation with an otherwise positive record regarding democracy and respect for human rights. Join us as we follow these unfolding events.