Tennessee Editorial Forum

By Rev. Jeremy Tobin

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) Article 13 states that, “Everyone has the right to leave any country including his own, and to return to his country.” Article 14 states that, “everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution.”

From these and other articles and principles enshrined in the UDHR, came “The International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families,” which was ratified by the United Nations on December 18, 1990.

People of faith believe that human rights are given by the Creator. They come with birth. Good law is to safeguard and protect these rights.

Both Article 13 and the International Convention on the Rights of Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families, declare that people have a right to migrate in order to better their living conditions and escape persecution, poverty and destitution. Migration has been going on as long as payment in return for labor was introduced.

The Catholic Bishops of the United States and Mexico have affirmed the long tradition of Catholic social justice in defending the right to migrate.

The international conventions and the bishops stress the right to migrate. So we begin by defending the right for people to migrate in order to seek work, to support their families and escape poverty and destitution.

International trade policies, notably NAFTA, have contributed to the exploitation of foreign economies and the steady flow of desperate people in search of work.

Historically, U.S. immigration policy is geared toward getting the cheapest labor force possible. It is based on discrimination. It ensures the steady flow of the cheapest labor from slavery to sweatshops, to back breaking field labor, to poultry and meat packing plants, and all manner of labor intensive work. The workers are set up to be treated inhumanely and paid well below what is fair and just. Guest worker policies make workers serfs to the companies that sponsor them. We must demand change in trade policies as well as just immigration reform. Both must happen together.

International conventions and statements from the religious community reinforce the principle that morality and justice are on the side of those struggling for fair and just immigration reform.

Looking at the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of all Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families, article 33 declares, states take appropriate measures to ensure that migrant workers and their families, are informed, upon request, free of charge, in a language they are able to understand, of the rights under this convention and on all matters that will enable them to comply with administrative or other formalities in the state of employment. Migrants are to be informed, even before they leave, of all conditions they must satisfy to gain employment.

Migrants are being abused, on every level as they seek employment in the U.S. Their desperation has created an illegal trafficking industry that robs them of resources and puts them in harms way. Further, they are not being honestly informed, in their own language, of the real conditions of labor on the other side. This must change.
Rev. Tobin is a member of the Mississippi Immigrant Rights Alliance.
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