Below is our first guest blog post, written by individuals who support all types of human rights. If you’re interested in being a guest blogger, please contact Jeanette Khan.
Wishing You a Happy International Migrants Day!
It’s December 18th, International Migrants’ Day. Which of course you know, just as you know all the birthdays of your friends and family. I’m sure you remember fondly as I do, dear reader, the day it was established by the UN–hard to believe just 12 years ago–to celebrate the 1990 UN adoption of The International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families. Unfortunately for us, either due to its newness or its proximity to certain other more popular holidays (I’m looking at you December-10th-International-Human-Rights-Day) it has yet to be adopted by Hallmark and the greeting card industry. With more than 240 million international migrants in the world today it seems like you could find a card…
Or actually, UN conventions aside, you won’t find a Migrants’ Day card probably because there’s not much to celebrate, yet. There are political theorists such as Kelly M. Greenhill and Myron Weiner that call human migration a growing crisis, highlighting how it can pose serious challenges to current legal, political, and economic systems. For a familiar example recall the 1980 Mariel Boatlift, which saw more than a 100,000 political refugees arrive in Florida in about three months time. Further, legal and human rights organizations like Human Rights Initiative reveal a migration crisis where it is the people who travel–often compelled through war and persecution–who are left exposed, not just states and economic systems. And then there’s human trafficking, contemporary slavery, and other forms of organized crime that take advantage of the legal gaps and vulnerabilities that the global passport and visa system create. And I have not even mentioned migrant and undocumented labor, which bear a long history of exploitation leading up to today.
I have to say, I really don’t like listing all this. Summarizing the current problems in international human migration makes it seem like an abstraction, a mythical and protean beast visiting suffering on the unnamed masses. The opposite can be equally true. The barriers to international travel continue to lower; international trade and economic opportunity continue to grow; the exchange of ideas and experiences are accelerating beyond what we could have imagined even 30 years ago; parents are increasingly choosing to adopt children internationally; and in Dallas we continue to boast culturally and linguistically diverse communities that bring rich talent to the local economy.
Perhaps a better summary of the current problems in international human migration would be one of rapid change and technological development. As the means and causes of travel expand at a rate outpacing change in our legal, political, and economic systems we end up with outdated laws and policies–or even worse, intentional exploitation of migrant populations for personal, political, and economic gain.
So, for International Migrants’ Day what’s there to do? First, you could volunteer at any of the wonderful non-profits right here in North Texas that provide shelter, resettlement, language and certification classes, legal aid, employment, and cultural inclusion programs. These organizations are addressing international migration with a thoughtfulness, compassion, and agility that gives a glimpse of what effective laws and policies might look like.
Or for International Migrants’ Day you can just stop and take a moment to think of a time in your travels that you felt vulnerable or maybe even exploited. And then stop and think of someone you know who is traveling now, will travel, or might travel in the future. Here’s a greeting card you can send them.
Justin Banta is the founding director of Refugee Writers and Script Supervisor on the independent film Faisal Goes West,