Reforming American migration programme | By Rashid A Mughal


Reforming American migration programme

IMMIGRATION has always been a hot topic and a big election issue in US elections.

In fact America is a country of immigrants since inception when Christopher Columbus, a Spaniard discovered America in 1492.

Waves after waves of migrants have been reaching American shores in the hope of “bright new future”.

For some it proved extra bright and they made millions and billions of dollars and are members of “club of rich”, owning much more than the GDP of many of the African and Asian countries and South American countries. For some, it is just a story of survival.

Today more than 82% of the population lives on “paycheque to paycheque”. The number of homeless people/families is constantly on the rise.

Worst affected are the black people, who were originally brought to USA as slaves from Africa and who still find themselves torn apart in the face of a brutal white majority and limited opportunities.

Numerous researchers have found and concluded that being a white helps in finding a job and being a black mostly is vulnerable, open to police excesses and social injustice.

Story of Mexicans, who risk their life and undertake a perilous journey to reach USA, is not different.

An estimated 8,000 people, most of them from Honduras, attempted to make their way north through Central America in January 2021 only to be halted by the coordinated action of regional authorities, including Mexico.

The route is a well-trodden one, but new emigration pressures are mounting for people in Honduras and elsewhere in Central America, including the lingering economic effects of COVID-19 lockdowns and devastating hurricanes that struck last November.

Migrants have pointed to lack of government assistance in the wake of the storms as a driving factor for their decision to trek north, in an illustration of how climate change and environmental impacts can affect migration—an issue the Migration Information Source is exploring through a podcast and a special series of articles.

The fate of the caravan illustrates how countries such as Guatemala and Mexico have more aggressively intervened in migrants’ movement, under pressure from the United States.

In years past, these caravans moved through the region with little hindrance. But fears about the corona virus and the legacy of pressure from the Trump Administration helped build new barriers to their progress, though it appears the caravan phenomenon is unlikely to fade. New President, Joe Biden is breaking from his predecessor on immigration matters.

He has outlined a $4 billion plan for development in Central America, aimed at addressing the root causes of migration.

But Trump’s policies will continue to have resonance in the region, given the difficulty of unwinding them.

Increased pressure on transit countries to manage migration has been a hallmark of the COVID-19 era and was one of top items under discussion.

Concerns about the corona virus’s spread have led to serious impediments to movement, yet the economic fallout from the pandemic has for many made the drive to move all the more pressing. Another example comes from Bosnia & Herzegovina.

Some 2,500 migrants have been stranded in the freezing cold after the Lipa emergency tent camp, hastily constructed over the summer to accommodate people trapped by pandemic-prompted border restrictions, was closed and then ravaged by fire.

The plight of the migrants, bound for Croatia and the European Union, has raised significant concern.

Congress must undertake a top-to-bottom overhaul of immigration system. A more modern system that meets today’s realities can strengthen American values and keep America economically competitive.

Robust border security must be combined with a robust legal immigration system; US can be a lawful society and a welcoming one at the same time.

If the status quo is maintained — with an immigration system woefully out of date, inefficient, and unwelcoming — the USA will no longer be the country of freedom and opportunity that it has been since founding.

Whether accomplished by comprehensive solutions or piecemeal legislation, the result must be the same — a new immigration system that works better for America.

The United States is home to about 45 million immigrants who come from all over the world, hoping to build a better life.

They are entrepreneurs and innovators, bringing with them the skills America needs to compete in the global economy.

They fill critical gaps in America’s labour force by performing work, the US economy requires and keeping workforce vibrant as the population ages.

The United States is only realizing a fraction of the potential that immigrants represent because of complex laws and outdated priorities.

America can be both a welcoming nation and a secure nation. Pro-growth immigration reform is an economic imperative.

A modern immigration policy can recognize the value of all immigrants regardless of how they arrive.

Although efforts were made in the 1980s and 1990s to address border security and the undocumented migrants, whom USA choose to admit to the country, has not substantially changed since the mid-1960s.

Today’s challenges are fundamentally different and immigration system which is obsolete, needs to be modernized and brought in line with ground realities.

Additionally, US must promote citizenship among immigrant friends and neighbours.

Executive branch agencies, local governments, non-governmental organizations, corporations, and private citizens all have a role to play in welcoming immigrant neighbours and helping them assimilate and integrate to the United States.

These recommendations outline an immigration system that benefits America and remains true to American values and history, as a nation of immigrants.

The United States is a beacon of freedom and opportunity for people all over the world.

American nation has welcomed thousands of people fleeing persecution, violence and instability.

Refugee resettlement in the United States is secure and successful. Refugees go through rigorous vetting before they are admitted to the country.

Once here, resettlement organizations help them get established in their new communities. Within a few years, refugees pay more in taxes than they receive in benefits.

The United States has been a world leader in refugee resettlement and should recommit to a robust humanitarian immigration policy.

When it demonstrates leadership on humanitarian migration, the rest of the world follows: American allies are more willing to accept refugees and asylum seekers, which is increasingly important when global displacement is at an all-time high.

Along the way, it will create a more stable and peaceful society both at home and abroad.

— The writer is former DG (Emigration) and consultant ILO, IOM.

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