“Pull” rather than “push” factors draw illegal immigrants to American soil, a United Nations human rights expert insisted Thursday.
Before an audience of about 40 at the United Church on the Green, U.N. Special Rapporteur on Human Rights of Migrants Jorge Bustamante, argued for the humane treatment and an increased awareness of the plight of migrant workers.
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Migrant workers are people who, unable to find stable work in their own county, find employment in another — usually bouncing from one job to another in an attempt to earn a living. Bustamante focused on Mexican migrant workers in the United States, many of whom he said are undocumented. He said the prevalence of undocumented migrant workers in the United States is a product of the high American demand for cheap labor, a fact largely ignored by the American media, he said.
“This makes the phenomena bilateral by definition,” Bustamante concluded.
Additionally, because of their illegal status within the States, the federal government insists the situation is a domestic legal concern. Bustamante said the best way to address the situation is for both governments to cooperate.
The problem, he explained, stems from American demand for cheap labor, which itself is a powerful incentive for many immigrants.
Illustrating the supply and demand factors of the situation, Bustamante said 95 percent of the field laborers in California, which is the largest producer of agricultural products in the United States, are Mexican. But, Bustamante said, the American public largely ignores the existence of this labor demand and its resulting human rights abuses.
Bustamante noted that the United States was willing to come to an agreement with the Mexican government, but progress was halted in the political aftermath of 9/11. But without a bilateral solution, Bustamante argued, workers face both treatment and pay discrimination due to the largely xenophobic ideologies of the American public.
As a result, the migrants are ostracized even though, as Bustamante said, “Mexicans change as soon as they cross the border” — referring to how they assimilate to American society.
Patricia Juarez, 43, a journalist for the New Haven based La Voz Hispana, agreed with Bustamante’s insistence on how the immigration problem is really a responsibility of both countries, the United States and Mexico. She voiced her concern over the lack of action on both parties.
The Mexican government neither creates jobs in Mexico nor defend the human rights of the Mexicans in the United States, Juarez said.
“And,” she added, “the American government doesn’t take note of the fact the immigrant work force is very important for the economy of the country.”
Felicia Martinez ’10 echoed this idea: “I thought he addressed a lot of issues that were pertinent to U.S.-Mexican relations in terms of needing a bilateral discussion between the two.”
The event was part of a series funded by the Public Humanities initiative in the American Studies program.