IV. GENERAL OVERVIEW OF POLICIES AND PRACTICES RELATED TO THE HUMAN RIGHTS OF MIGRANT WORKERS AND THEIR FAMILIES
100. As indicated in the previous chapter, during the year the Rapporteurship for Migrant Workers monitors policies and practices that affect the protection and guarantee of the human rights of migrant workers and their families in the Americas. This monitoring work allows for further insights into migration, so as to improve advocacy work on behalf of migrants’ rights.
101. This chapter of the annual report succinctly presents a general overview of those policies and practices that the Rapporteurship has considered important due to their impact on the human rights of migrants workers and their families. This overview covers 2003. In some cases, however, information is mentioned covering earlier periods that was disseminated in the course of this year.
Reduction of visa applications for Canada
102. In June 2002, Canada established
new rules for issuing visas. In part due to this new regulation, visa
applications dropped 75%. While from June 2001 to February 2002, 100,000
applications were submitted to the Canadian authorities, from June 2002
to February 2003, only 26,000 applications were received.
Foreign population in Canada
103. The Canadian immigration authorities revealed that according to the last population census (2001), some 5.4 million persons residing in the country, i.e. 18.4% of the total population, was born outside the country. The authorities also indicated that from 1991 to 2002, 1.8 million immigrants landed in Canada. Of these, 11% are from the Caribbean, Central America, or South America.
Migration to United States continues
104. The Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services of the United States reported that in fiscal year 2002, 1,063,732 foreigners were admitted as authorized immigrants, similar to the previous year. Some 63% were admitted within the family reunification programs, while 16% entered under labor preferences. Less than 385,000 new visas were issued to persons who were not in the Untied States, i.e. the rest of the authorized immigrants were in the country with another immigration status, for example as students, or their entry or stay was not authorized. The new immigrants include 219,380 Mexicans, 71,105 citizens of India, 61,282 persons from China, 51,308 Filipinos and 33,627 persons from Vietnam. The number of guest workers and persons in job training courses who entered the United States in fiscal year 2002 remained relatively stable, at 656,000 for the period.
Mexicans do not return
105. In addition, recent research by academic institutions indicates that undocumented Mexican migrants not continue in the circular migration pattern, in which they traditionally migrated to the United States. At present, Mexican immigrants have opted to remain for long periods in the United States, among other things to pay the sum of about $1,500 to the smuggler who helped them cross the border illegally.
Hispanic population in the United States
106. According to the U.S. authorities,
calculations from the last population census, from 2001, indicate that
the number of workers living in the country without authorization came
to some 8.7 million. One-third resided in California.
Some 4.8 million were nationals of Mexico.
Several other Latin American countries, including Colombia, Dominican
Republic, Peru, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Ecuador have more
than 100,000 nationals each residing in the United States without papers.
The U.S. authorities also revealed that some 32.5 million persons,
equivalent to 11% of the total population, was born outside the country.
Of these persons, some 17 million (56%) were Latin Americans. Moreover,
the last census revealed that the number of Hispanics is 38.8 million,
many of them migrant workers. Hispanics have become the largest minority
in the United States,
surpassing the Afro-descendent population, which numbers 38.3 million.
Interception of migrants in Nicaragua
107. The Nicaraguan authorities rescued the corpses of three persons, presumably migrants of Colombian or Ecuadorian origin, who drowned at high sea when the vessel in which they were traveling to the United States shipwrecked. The bodies were found when a group of persons voluntarily approached officials at the government immigration offices in Puerto Cabezas. Nicaraguan authorities reported an increase in the flow of Ecuadorian citizens detained in the country or in territorial waters who were traveling to the United States.
Foreigners in Chile
108. The Chilean authorities indicated that foreigners account for 1.2% of the population. The two largest groups are from Argentina and Peru. There are approximately 60,000 persons from those countries.
Return of Argentines
109. Authorities in Argentina revealed that many Argentines who emigrated in 2001-2002 returned to the country last year. During the acute economic and political crisis that affected the country in 2001-2002, some 255,000 persons left for countries such as Italy, Spain, the United States, Israel, Mexico, and Chile, among others. While the information on the return of these persons is still anecdotal, an incipient number of Argentines who left during the crisis, especially those who were undocumented abroad, have returned.
110. The flow of Venezuelans going abroad maintained its upward trend in 2003. While there are no official figures on the number of persons who have emigrated in the last five years, it is estimated that at present some 300,000 Venezuelans reside in the United States, and 35,000 in Spain. A large number of these persons are undocumented.
Haitians in the Dominican Republic
111. A recently-published World Bank report indicated that some 6% of the population of the Dominican Republic, estimated at 8.4 million, are Haitians.
National Security Entry-Exit System (NSEERS) in the United States
112. In 2003, males over 16 years of age from over 24 countries of the Middle East and North Korea have had to register with the Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services of the United States, where photographs and fingerprints are taken, and they are interviewed. U.S. citizens and permanent residents are not subject to this special registry. In March 2003, some 42,000 men had registered. It is estimated that 10% of these were detained and faced removal or deportation proceedings. A significant number of workers and their families are thought to have left the United States to avoid registering.
Indefinite detention in the United States
113. On April 17, 2003, Attorney General John Ashcroft of the United States determined that immigrants, even when they have no ties to terrorist organizations, can be detained indefinitely for national security reasons. The Attorney General proffered this decision in the case of a Haitian immigrant who had been released on bond, while awaiting the final decision on his asylum petition. The Attorney General considered that releasing him and others similarly situated might tend to foster massive migration from Haiti by sea, which would impact national security concerns and resources.
Border control in the United States
114. In fiscal year 2002, the U.S. Border Patrol apprehended 955,310 foreigners. During the same period, 106,387 Mexicans were deported, representing a reduction of 18% with respect to the previous year.
Operation Liberty Shield in the United States
115. During the war against Iraq (March 17 to May 15, 2003), the Homeland Security Department implemented Operation Liberty Shield. This operation involved detaining asylum seekers from a list of 33 countries and the Gaza Strip and West Bank.
Operation Sentinel in Mexico
116. From the beginning of the war with Iraq and until April 21, 2003, the Mexican migration authorities in collaboration with the Police and Army carried out Operation Sentinel, designed to protect Mexico’s northern and southern borders, airports, ports, oil wells, power plants, communities with a large presence of U.S. citizens, and the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City. Some 18,000 members of the army and 12,000 officers of the Policía Federal Preventiva participated in the operation. As a result of the operation, which lasted about 30 days, 15 Iraqi citizens were arrested, along with 62 persons of other nationalities, mostly nationals of Arab countries. None of these persons had any ties to terrorist organizations.
Deaths at the Mexican-U.S. border
117. The number of persons who died along the U.S.-Mexico border came to 250 from September 2002 to September 2003, according to the U.S. Border Patrol. Of the persons who died from January to November 2003, 146 perished when attempting to enter the United States through the desert in western Arizona (a record figure for Arizona), another 70 died in the Imperial Valley in California, and the rest in other sectors of the 2,500-kilometer border. The victims have died of asphyxiation, as the result of hypothermia and/or dehydration, or as the result of accidents or drowning when trying to cross inaccessible zones in desert canyons and gullies, and mountainous areas. In one of the most serious incidents, 19 persons died of asphyxiation in a container of a cargo truck in Victoria, Texas, 370 kilometers from the border in May 2003. The authorities reported that more than 100 persons were traveling in the container. From 1994 to 2002, 2,200 persons perished trying to cross the border into the United States. During the year 2000, a record 491 persons died in the border area.
Deaths at sea between the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico
118. In November 2003, more than 30 undocumented migrants who were traveling in a small vessel from the Dominican Republic to Puerto Rico drowned. According to the U.S. Coast Guard, in the last three years almost 300 people have died or disappeared trying to cross the Mona pass, stretching 80 nautical miles, which separates the two islands. Another 164 migrants died or disappeared at other places in the Caribbean during the same time period. It is estimated that 100,000 Dominicans live in Puerto Rico, many irregularly.
Colombians in Panama
119. In the wake of the deportation of a group of approximately 100 Colombians from Panama in April 2003, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights issued precautionary measures aimed at protecting the life and personal integrity of two of these persons, who had been detained by the Panamanian authorities, and to protect the security and health and guarantee the family unification of four minors. The measures also called for the Panamanian government to comply with the obligation of non-refoulement with respect to Colombians who seek protection in Panama. The Colombian and Panamanian authorities announced that approximately 300 Colombian persons (59 families) who have been living in Panama will be repatriated in the month of December 2003. The authorities indicate that the repatriation is voluntary.
Federal Law to Prevent and Eliminate Discrimination in Mexico
120. In April 2003, the Mexican Congress adopted the Federal Law to Prevent and Eliminate Discrimination. The law requires that the authorities take measures to prevent discrimination and to establish a budgetary outlay aimed at promoting actions to guarantee equal opportunity. The law calls for creating the National Council for the Prevention of Discrimination in the Interior Ministry.
Migration Law in Panama
121. In November 2003, it was announced that
the Cabinet Council was debating a legislative initiative on migration
International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families
122. In last year’s report the Rapporteurship indicated that East Timor was the twentieth state to ratify the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families. In this respect, it was said that with East Timor’s ratification, the Convention would enter into force. While the government of East Timor ratified this Convention, it did not ultimately deposit the ratification, with which it did not enter into force in January, as expected, but rather on July 1, 2003, after Guatemala and El Salvador deposited their ratifications. After the entry into force of the instrument, a committee was established made up of 10 independent experts to monitor the states to ensure the states comply with the treaty provisions. The number of independent experts will increase to 15 once 41 countries have ratified the treaty.
123. The Protocol to Suppress, Prevent and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children will enter into force in January 2004. Azerbaijan deposited the twenty-fourth ratification of that instrument. The following nations of the Americas are states parties to that treaty: Argentina, Canada, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Mexico, and Peru.
Institutional changes on migration issues
Dissolution of the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS)
124. In the United States, the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) ceased to exist on March 1, 2003, when it became part of the Department of Homeland Security. The functions of the INS were split among three divisions (a) The Bureau of Border and Transportation Security, which controls entries and performs border surveillance; (b) the Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services, which processes naturalization, and provides services and/or benefits to non-citizens; and (c) the Executive Office for Immigration Review, which includes the immigration judges.
125. Recent studies indicate that remittances (money sent by nationals of a given country living abroad to their country of origin) continued their upward trend in the Americas. According to the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), remittances in Latin America came to $32 billion in 2002, an 18% increase over 2001. The same study indicates that in 2002 remittances reached a figure somewhat less than foreign direct investment in the region. According to the IDB, Mexico received US$10.5 billion in remittances, Central America $US5.4 billion, the countries of the Caribbean region $US5.5 billion, and Brazil $US4.6 billion (most sent by Brazilians living in Japan). According to the IDB, the most pronounced increase in remittances has been in Argentina. In 2002 total remittances sent to Argentina increased 80%, to US$184 million. Projections on the amount of remittances to Mexico for 2003 indicated that they had reached US$13 to US$14 billion. A study by Pew Hispanic Center reached similar conclusions and indicated that Latin America will receive more than US$30 billion in remittances in 2003.
126. Western Union handled 83% of money transfers abroad that originated in the United States in 2002. Its main competition is Viad’s Moneygram.
Impact of remittances in Guatemala
127. A study by the IOM released in 2003 indicated that 722,469 households, equivalent to 30% of the Guatemalan population, survive economically thanks to the sending of remittances. The amount of remittances sent to Guatemala is estimated at US$ 1.2 billion, 8% of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP).
Smuggling and trafficking of women and children to the United States
128. It is estimated that approximately 50,000 foreign women and children are given assistance to enter the United States to work as sex workers, domestic workers, or in the assembly industry. In the European Union (EU), an estimated 120,000 persons are pressed into this activity each year. The U.S. and Mexican authorities intensified their struggle against gangs of smugglers and traffickers of persons, especially in the border area. In the United States, the office of investigations of the Bureau of Border and Transportation Security assumed responsibility for investigating crimes related to the smuggling and trafficking of persons. In March 2003, the United States announced that 36 persons had been convicted of sexual trafficking in 2002 and 2003, and that 23 T visas were issued to victims of this crime.
Company declared innocent of committing irregularities
129. In March 2003, Tyson Foods, a poultry processing company, was found innocent of the charges of conspiring to recruit and smuggle undocumented workers to its processing plants. The managers of the company had paid undercover agents from the Immigration and Naturalization Service a sum for each undocumented worker they would bring from the border to its plants in nine states. In these schemes, the migrant workers also had to pay a sum of money to the recruiter/smuggler. Tyson argued that the managers had violated company rules and had done so without the company’s consent or backing.
Prostitution and trafficking of persons
130. The Colombian authorities reported that 45,000 to 50,000 Colombian women have been trafficked to various countries by organizations engaged in prostitution. The destinations include Japan, Spain, France, Germany, Venezuela, Nicaragua, Mexico, Costa Rica, and the United States.
131. In November the Government of Peru and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) signed an Inter-institutional Cooperation Agreement. Its objective is to develop a publicity campaign to fight the trafficking of persons, and it is supported and financed by the governments of the United States and Canada.
Repatriation of minors who are victims of trafficking in Honduras
132. The Government of Honduras repatriated about 1,000 minors who were kidnapped by organizations engaged in the trafficking of persons and taken to Guatemala, Mexico, the United States, and Canada to work in child prostitution. Most of these minors were street children. The initiative is a pilot plan to rehabilitate victims of the trafficking of persons; it is supported and financed by the governments of the United States and Canada.
Plan for regularization in Panama
133. The Government of Panama organized a plan to regularize migration and a census to register the Chinese population in Panama. Chinese nationals who registered with the authorities had three months to regularize their immigration status. In addition to registering persons, the initiative, according to the government, was aimed at fighting the growing trafficking and/or smuggling of Chinese nationals to Panama.
Renewal of Temporary Protected Status
134. The United States extended Temporary Protected Status (TPS) until March 2005 to 290,000 citizens from El Salvador hit by the two earthquakes in 2001, and to 105,000 citizens of Honduras and Nicaragua who were adversely affected by Hurricane Mitch in 1998. At the same time, Lucio Gutiérrez, President of Ecuador, formally requested that the government of the United States grant TPS to undocumented Ecuadorian nationals residing in the United States.
135. The Argentine Senate approved a new Migration Law in December. The new law replaces the so called Videla Law, a migration legislation created by the Argentine Military Dictatorship (1976-83) and which was considered outdated and restricted. The new legislation guarantees the right to basic education and health services to all migrants, irrespective of their migratory status as well as minimum due process guarantees for migrants during administrative process concerning their migratory situation. Additionally, the law derogates a provision on the old Videla Law that obliged state officials to denounce to the authorities the presence of foreigners whose migratory status was irregular.
Drivers licenses for undocumented immigrants
136. The state of California, in the United States, like other states of the Union, adopted legislation authorizing the issuance of drivers licenses to undocumented immigrants. This measure is expected to benefit 10% of the 22 million persons who drive vehicles in California.
137. It is estimated that the 47 Mexican consulates in the United States have issued approximately 1,500,000 consular registration documents (matrícula consular). While Mexico has been issuing this document for over 100 years, it is only recently that it has organized a lobbying strategy for the matrícula consular to be accepted as an identification document. As the matrícula consular has won wide acceptance among the undocumented migrant population in the United States, other states have been issuing identification documents to their nationals abroad. Guatemala, the Dominican Republic, and Ecuador are documenting their nationals who have emigrated. Honduras, Nicaragua, El Salvador, and Brazil are considering the possibility of adopting similar initiatives.
138. The U.S. government is debating an initiative, with the Mexican government, aimed at allowing Mexicans who have paid into social security in the United States to claim their benefits in Mexico. Workers must have worked in both countries and can access the benefit in the state in which they have legal residency. The United States has signed 20 agreements along these lines, called “totalization” agreements.
South American Conference on Migration
139. In November, the Fourth South American Conference on Migration was held in Montevideo, Uruguay. The meeting adopted a Final Declaration in which it was recommended that the South American Forum on Migration be established as a regular mechanism for consultation and discussion on migration.
Multilateral initiative to address migration
order to continue multilateral conversations of the so-called Berne
Initiative, the Swiss government announced that it will organize a
second round of multilateral discussions in 2004. In 2001 the Swiss
government launched this multilateral initiative to address the
challenges and problems related to migration in the 21st century.
U.S.-Mexican negotiations on migration
141. Despite President Fox’s official visit to the southern border states of the southwestern United States, and bilateral meetings to discuss the issue in November 2003, efforts to reach an agreement on migration did not succeed. During the meeting of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Forum, held in Bangkok, Thailand, in October, Fox and the U.S. President George W. Bush agreed to continue addressing the matter. Previously, however, U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell acknowledged that the prospects for advancing substantially in the negotiations would be difficult, given that in the legislative arena, the contents of a possible agreement to be discussed were very thorny. Tom Ridge, the Secretary of Homeland Security, stated that the situation of undocumented Mexican nationals could not persist indefinitely without some solution. Finally, Santiago Creel, Mexican Interior Secretary, said in April 2003 that migration is a fundamental issue in the bilateral relationship, and that, accordingly, it could not be set aside. In addition, he stated that regularizing the status of some four million Mexicans could facilitate the work of the U.S. authorities in charge of internal security.
Discussion of initiatives in the United States
142. Several legislative initiative were submitted to the U.S. Congress for the purpose of establishing guest worker programs and establishing mechanisms for documenting irregular workers.