Immigrant rights must be oriented on two fronts: ending neoliberal policies responsible for generating poverty in their countries of origin, forcing them to emigrate, and demanding that they be granted full rights in their host countries.
The fate of the globalized worker cannot be romanticized. Instability and lack of security is the condition of many. Capitalism in the neoliberal era destroys jobs at home and creates them everywhere, forcing many to undertake dangerous cross-border journeys to find those jobs. Deregulated as it is today, capitalism is characterized by periods of expansion and contraction. When the contraction comes, the bulk of immigrants becomes dangerous, and opportunistic politicians, from the dominant culture, place them as scapegoats for the loss of their jobs. This is the situation that exists today in developed countries, where discrimination, police repression and deportations have become ubiquitous.
But let us not be so negative about our host societies either. These are often democratic societies where there are institutionalized rights and freedoms. Many immigrants, of course, are deprived of some of those rights and freedoms, but in many ways these countries offer a model of what is possible in our societies of origin, where rights and freedoms are fragile, if not non-existent, and the Political corruption appears everywhere. Women in many societies of the so-called Third World find in their receiving societies a level of respect and a state of formal equality with men who are completely absent in the societies from which they come.
Despite everything said and done, most immigrant workers would probably prefer to stay and work in their home countries if they could find the jobs that would allow them a decent life. It is important that immigrant advocates understand the conditions that have made emigration from developing countries so massive in the past three decades.
Conditions of poverty and economic problems have pushed people out of their societies, but these conditions are not natural. They have been created. And in the performance of developing countries since the late 1980s, the main driver of the expansion of poverty and economic difficulties have been the structural adjustment programs promoted by the IMF and the World Bank and the liberalization of trade promoted by the World Trade Organization (WTO).
Therefore, to seriously address the problems they face, immigrants and their advocates cannot but be involved in a two-front war.
On the one hand, we must fight in our home countries to end conditions of structural adjustment, market liberalization, and other neoliberal policies that have eroded our agricultural and industrial base and destroyed millions of jobs. We must tell the United States government and the European Union that we do not need help; What we need is for them to stop imposing bilateral trade agreements and economic association agreements on us. What our countries are asking is for the ongoing structural adjustment programs in Africa to stop, and for the advanced liberalization of trade under the WTO and bilateral and multilateral trade agreements to end.
As for the other front, the agenda seems clear. We must decisively assert what is a silenced truth: that immigrants greatly contribute to the economy and culture of their host countries. We must squarely oppose state repression of immigrants and confront populist right-wing groups that make them guilty of all ills. We must demand an end to the deportations of undocumented immigrants, their rapid legalization and guarantees of full citizenship rights for those with papers and their children, and that the attainment of legal status is facilitated for those without papers.
Success in solving immigrant dilemmas will require progress on both fronts. There is no guarantee that we will succeed in our support, but unless we face challenges on both fronts, we can be sure that we will not achieve our goals.