Implementing the Summit of the Americas (SOA) Migrant Workers Initiative
Prepared for the Summit Implementation Review Group
by the United States Department of State
April 7, 2000
Implementation of the Migrant Worker Initiative, a new feature coming out of the 1998 Santiago Summit, has come about in two primary ways: through individual actions on the part of SOA participant countries; and collective actions by these countries in cooperation with international and non-governmental organizations. Based on experience, it has been necessary, in promoting implementation, to stimulate a broader general awareness about this new initiative as well. Mounting a coordinated implementation effort has faced a recognizable challenge because issues concerning migrant workers cut across multiple lines of responsibility within each SOA participant country.
The body of this report provides a review of implementation efforts keyed to the text of the Santiago SOA action plan. Following are some of the more salient points:
The United States, as Responsible Coordinator, continues to move forward with efforts to promote implementation of the SOA Migrant Worker Initiative. In this regard, the Department of State during the remainder of year 2000 is promoting three inter-related activities: two consist of "best practices" workshops for experts; the third is a hemispheric symposium on "Migration in the Americas."
At the 1998 Summit of the Americas (SOA) in Santiago, Chile, Heads of Government approved by consensus a multi-part Plan of Action, including a new initiative not found in the 1994 Miami Summit: to promote the human rights of migrants, including migrant workers and their families. Subsequently the U.S. was designated as Responsible Coordinator for implementing this initiative with El Salvador and Mexico as Co-coordinators. When viewed as a whole, the Migrant Worker section of the Santiago Summit Plan of Action reflects a commitment by Member States to undertake a number of activities, both general and specific. The consensus text reads as follows:
Since 1998, a number of significant activities have taken place through various means to promote the Summit Migrant Worker Initiative:
One important example of ongoing collective action to address issues and concerns pertaining to Migrants (including Migrant Workers and their families) is the Regional Conference on Migration (RCM), also known as "Puebla Process." The RCM membership consists of Belize, Canada, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama and the United States. Argentina, Colombia, Ecuador, Jamaica, Peru, the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the U.N High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), and the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), through its Latin American Demographic Center (CELADE), also participate as observers. As described in subsequent sections of this report, RCM efforts and activities in a number of instances have shared a common aim with the Summit Migrant Worker Initiative. Among the most recent developments in this framework is the creation of a Virtual Secretariat, as an innovative instrument to strengthen coordination and communication.
Another effort, promoted jointly by the United States and Mexico, is the preparation of a Binational Report on various aspects of migration flows, with the aim of building a qualitative and quantitative common assessment in order to develop a more effective cooperative approach to this question. The report has contributed to a better understanding of the different aspects of migration between the Unites States and Mexico.
Efforts to advance implementation necessarily have also had to incorporate activities to promote broader general awareness that, with the Santiago Summit, the Migrant Worker Initiative became an integral part of the Action Plan and is ongoing. Promoting the human rights of migrant workers involves the participation of many key actors in the private and public sector of each SOA participating country and within the Americas as a whole, posing an additional challenge in mounting a coordinated implementation effort. This report incorporates information voluntarily submitted by SOA participant countries. This information is limited in geographical scope because only a few states responded to a request for information, although all countries were invited to do so. Given that the next Summit is more than one year into the future, this discussion on implementation is both historical and prospective in nature, reviewing not only those activities already completed but also some of those scheduled for the remainder of this year.
I. Reaffirm that the promotion and protection of human rights and the fundamental freedoms for all, without distinction by reasons of race, gender, language, nationality, or religion, is a priority for the international community and is the responsibility of every state.
Summit participant countries uniformly have already enshrined these fundamental rights and freedoms in their respective constitutions and laws. Nonetheless, there is recognition of the need to ensure greater access of vulnerable groups, such as female migrant workers, to existing judicial systems. In the United States, for example, the National Institute of Justice, which is the research and development institute attached to the U.S. Department of Justice, awarded a two-year grant beginning this year to document the factors precipitating migrant farmworker women's use of the criminal justice system generally, describe their experiences using the criminal justice system in domestic violence cases, and identify resources available to battered migrant women.
In Brazil, the Government is carrying out a number of activities geared to the migrant worker population in various areas of Brazilian life. As part of the National Human Rights Program, a number of actions impacting on migrants have been proposed, including combating violence and discrimination against foreigners in Brazil and Brazilian communities abroad, adopting policies to protect foreign communities in Brazil, and reforming legislation in this regard.
Mexico has implemented special programs to strengthen protections for the human rights of migrants, including migrants from Central America destined for the United States. In this regard, specific procedures for the safe repatriation of migrants have been established, particularly for those without the required documentation.
Collective actions have taken place as well, most particularly within the framework of the Regional Conference on Migration (RCM). The five meetings of Viceministers and the six held at the technical level have allowed countries in the region to exchange views and experiences on the protection and human rights of migrants, on the links between international migration and development processes, and on the importance of informing public opinion of the benefits that migrants generate in both countries of origin and receiving States.
In 1998, the United States hosted for RCM members a seminar on "Human Rights and Migrants," marking a useful initial step in identifying concerns relating to migrants, including migrant workers and their families. In February of this year, Canada and El Salvador sponsored along with IOM an RCM seminar on "Migrant Women and Children," involving the participation of, and coordination with, 32 civil society organizations. The aim was two-fold: ensure that gender awareness is effectively incorporated into all RCM activities, and identify cooperative mechanisms to prevent violation of the human rights enjoyed by all migrants, with particular attention to women and children.
RCM member states are also moving ahead with concrete measures to provide humane treatment to undocumented migrants, including undocumented migrant workers, who are returning voluntarily to their country of origin. The Central American Commission of Migration Directors (OCAM) has proposed a project for IOM's undertaking within the RCM framework for the dignified, orderly and secure return of Central American migrants by transport overland -- as in the case, for example, of those migrants from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras returning through Mexico.
Other collective initiatives, moreover, have been realized apart from the RCM process. A trilateral conference on "Agricultural Migrant Labor in North America" took place in February of this year, involving participation from Canada, Mexico and the United States under the auspices of the North American Agreement on Labor Cooperation (NAALC). The conference served as a means to further examine both the concerns of, and the national programs of these three countries impacting on, migrant workers; it also allowed for initial discussions on examples of "best practices" proving effective in addressing these concerns. Also, the conference provided for the first time within the NAALC a forum for the exchange of views among government representatives, union leaders, patrons and organizations from civil society interested in migration.
Within the context of MERCOSUR, the Presidents of the member countries signed in December of 1998 the MERCOSUR Social and Labor Declaration, a document that encapsulates the fundamental labor-related rights and commitments of the countries of the region. In this declaration "all migrant workers, regardless of their nationality, are entitled to the aid, information, protection, and equality of rights and working conditions that are afforded to the nationals of the country in which they are exercising their activities."
II. Comply with the applicable international human rights instruments and, consistent with the legal framework of each country, guarantee the human rights of all migrants, including migrant workers and their families.
SOA participating countries similarly have taken active steps on their own to adapt to the changing dynamics of migration. El Salvador currently is in the process of revising and updating its Migration Law of 1958 to more effectively deal with current circumstances. In November 1999, Brazil established the "International Migration Working Group," associated with the National Committee on Population and Development (CNPD). This working group brings together government representatives, researchers, and members of civil society to serve as a point of reference and support for government agencies and social action groups involved in international migration matters, including those dealing with labor issues.
On December 14th 1998, Mexico ratified the "International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families." (Colombia achieved ratification in May 1995.) This matter remains under study by various other countries within the Hemisphere.
In February of this year, the United States deposited the instruments of ratification for ILO Convention 182, "Concerning the Prohibition and Immediate Action for the Elimination of the Worst Forms of Child Labor."
III. Seek full compliance with, and protection of, the human rights of all migrants, including migrant workers, and their families, and adopt effective measures, including the strengthening of public awareness, to prevent and eradicate violations of human rights and eliminate all forms of discrimination against them, particularly racial discrimination, xenophobia, and related intolerance.
SOA participating countries uniformly have incorporated provisions into their constitutions and laws to address these concerns, complemented by governmental programs. Argentina, as but one example, has developed information and public awareness campaigns on the rights of migrant workers through its National Institute against Discrimination, Xenophobia and Racism, to counter any xenophobic attitudes found in general society. In the United States the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) issued an enforcement guidance in November of last year modifying its position on remedies available to unauthorized workers under federal employment discrimination laws. Under this new guidance, the EEOC has concluded that unauthorized workers are entitled to damages compensating for non-payment of back wages or employer retaliatory actions prohibited under U.S. anti-discrimination laws.
Within the RCM, member countries have also restated their resolve to address this issue collectively. At their fifth annual meeting concluded just last month, the Vice-Ministers included the following principle as part of their Declaration on the Strengthening of the Regional Conference on Migration (Puebla Process):
"We reaffirm our respect for the dignity of all migrants and condemn and will strive to eliminate violations of human rights of migrants and refugees, regardless of their immigration status. In this regard, we will seek to comply with relevant international standards and agreements. We will continue to combat anti-immigrant attitudes, discrimination and abuses against migrants and their families."
IV. Reaffirm the sovereign right of each State to formulate and apply its own legal framework and policies for migration, including the granting of permission to migrants to enter, stay, or exercise economic activity, in full conformity with applicable international instruments relating to human rights and in a spirit of cooperation.
In due recognition of the Summit Migrant Worker Initiative, Argentina, Bolivia, and Peru entered into formal agreements, taking effect in 1999, which extended rights and freedoms to Bolivian and Peruvian migrant workers and their families legally resident in Argentina. These agreements specifically provided for the following:
citizens in the application of labor laws, especially in terms of working conditions, pay and social security;
With a view to incorporating immigrants into the system of legal protection and into Brazilian Society, the Government of Brazil launched a campaign to legalize the status of foreigners, including migrant workers, who are in Brazil illegally. Under this system the Ministry of Labor and Employment has issued work permit visas, a measure that benefits thousands of workers and their families. With respect to labor laws, the Brazilian Government is also expending efforts to improve the rules governing the granting of work permits to foreigners by means of harmonizing, streamlining, and simplifying administrative procedures and requirements. One major byproduct of this effort was publication of the booklet, "Work Permits for Foreigners," which in addition to serving as a guide, also clarifies the rights and responsibilities of migrant workers.
Following the devastating effects of Hurricane Mitch in Central America in 1998, the Government of Costa Rica decreed an Amnesty for Central American immigrants in an irregular situation. During a six-month registration period, from Feb to July 1999, more than 160,000 such immigrants applied for regularization of their status of whom 97% were Nicaraguans. IOM cooperated with the Government of Costa Rica in the design and implementation of the Amnesty, which was accompanied by a public information campaign implemented by IOM with financing provided by the United States.
All workers in Guyana, whether national or migrant, are protected from mistreatment and exploitation by the country's labor laws. Employers of migrant workers are required to apply for work permits, with applications decided on a case-by-case basis by a senior-level committee comprising the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Home Affairs, the Chief Recruitment and Placement Officer and the Chief Labor Officer or their respective representatives.
As described in its voluntary submission, El Salvador, also in keeping with the principle of non-discrimination, issues permits through its Ministry of the Interior to migrants on a case-by-case basis, enabling them to enter and remain in-country, and to engage in work for compensation. El Salvador also has established a Central Foreign Office in its Directorate General for Migration in order to provide more rapid and efficient service.
In 1998, the Government of Mexico initiated the "Programa de Incorporación Definitiva" (Final Resettlement Program) for 20,000 Guatemalan refugees who decided to remain in the country as an alternative to voluntarily returning to their country. The initiative is carried out under the auspices of the Mexican Commission of Assistance to Refugees (COMAR), with the support of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the Special Governmental Commission of Assistance to Refugees (CEAR) of Guatemala. The program, lasting 5 years, allows those Guatemalan citizens to remain in the country under regular migratory status and includes the possibility of granting Mexican nationality.
For its part, the United States is taking steps to streamline and render more user-friendly its H-2 nonimmigrant visa program, under which thousands of agricultural (H2A) and non-agricultural migrant workers apply for temporary work visas annually. Functions in the petition approval process are being consolidated to provide an incentive for workers and employers alike to work within this system. In general, these temporary "guestworker" programs provide strong protections for foreign workers legally admitted to work in the U.S. and, in nearly all cases, U.S. labor laws apply to these workers as they do to national workers. Under the H-2A program, special protections are afforded to temporary foreign workers on U.S. farms, and any U.S. workers similarly employed by a U.S. employer sponsoring H-2A workers. These extra protections include:
With respect to collective efforts, a comparative study of labor and migration legislation was completed within the framework of the RCM process as a spur to achieving greater harmonization between the group's member countries.
V. Seek full respect for, and compliance with, the 1963 Vienna Convention on Consular Relations (VCCR), especially as it relates to the right of nationals, regardless of their immigration status, to communicate with a consular officer of their own State in case of detention.
Countries throughout the Hemisphere continue to focus on this issue through individual and collective actions. Based on a request by Mexico (joined by El Salvador, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Honduras, Paraguay), and with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) acting as amicus curiae, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights issued a Consultative Opinion (OC-16) in October of last year. The request was also supported by various international human rights organizations. Among the Inter-American Court's non-binding conclusions are suggestions that foreign nationals must be informed that they may request consular assistance before any statement is taken from them and that a death sentence may not be executed in any case in which consular notification was not provided. The United States has reservations regarding these and some of the Inter-American Court's other advisory conclusions.
SOA participant countries, as highlighted in the voluntary submissions of Canada and El Salvador, carried out comprehensive activities to enhance rigorous observance of the convention's provisions. In Mexico federal legislation has been in force, long before its request to the Inter-American Court, providing for automatic notification to the corresponding Embassy/Consulate of every case where a foreign national faces a criminal proceeding.
The United States strongly supports improved compliance by all Western Hemisphere nations with the consular notification and access provisions of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations and/or bilateral consular agreements. While we believe that performance can be improved throughout the Hemisphere, we are also convinced there is far greater awareness of consular notification and access provisions now than in the past. The United States Government has worked diligently to improve U.S. compliance with consular notification and access requirements, despite our disagreements on interpretation of the VCCR. Notwithstanding the latter, the United States takes the position that all foreign nationals are entitled to consular notification and access, regardless of their visa or immigration status in the United States. Thus "illegal" aliens have the same rights to consular assistance as do "legal" aliens. There is no reason, for purposes of consular notification, to inquire into a person's legal status in the United States. The U.S. Department of State has undertaken a wide variety of outreach initiatives to improve general awareness in the United States of the requirements of both the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations and the various bilateral agreements. Among the most significant of these are the following:
In addition to whatever actions have been undertaken individually, participating countries in the RCM process collectively have engaged in a number of concrete actions in this area. RCM participating countries accomplished wide distribution of VCCR informational materials to pertinent authorities within their respective governments, as well as to resident diplomatic missions and foreign consular offices; in July of last year, moreover, an RCM seminar in Guatemala provided the opportunity for sharing of experiences on the issue of consular protection and assistance, as well as establishment of a network of consular officials to coordinate protection and assistance activities.
VI. Protect the rights of all migrant workers and their families, consistent, with each country’s internal legal framework, by taking steps, in case they do not exist, to:
1) provide, with respect to working conditions, the same legal protection as for national workers;
As highlighted in its voluntary submission, Brazil's labor inspection system has been reinforcing its presence in the migrant worker sector, focusing especially on the protection of those in the job market whose situation is most vulnerable, and the elimination of degrading treatment, child labor and violations of other labor regulations.
Canada works closely with governments in the Caribbean and Mexico on the issue of migrant agricultural workers recruited to work on Canadian farms. Two programs govern the movement of such workers, one covering the Caribbean, the other Mexico. Under these agreements, workers are ensured basic rights, such as prescribed wage rates similar to those offered to Canadians doing the same jobs, as well as medical care. Annual meetings bring together all parties to evaluate each program and resolve any issues that may arise. Canadian government officials also actively ensure that all parties, including growers, abide by Canadian laws.
In Saint Christopher and Nevis, Labor Department inspectors conduct regular inspections at agricultural sites, entering freely and conversing with workers in private if they so wish. Migrant workers' employment contracts entitle them to the same wages and benefits as workers who are nationals.
Worker protection in the United States is a shared Federal – State responsibility. The legal protections afforded to transnational migrant workers – at both the Federal and State levels – are essentially the same as afforded national workers. Yet, in recognition of the special vulnerability of some migrant workers – such as agricultural workers – there are laws offering special protections which extend beyond those afforded other workers, irrespective of whether the migrants are national or transnational. Some of these laws, such as State-administered unemployment insurance, may apply depending on duration of employment (including with a single employer) and thus provide less coverage of some migrant workers, national or transnational, than other more long-term workers.
The United States has a national law requiring payment of an hourly minimum wage and overtime premium pay, and regulating child labor – the Fair Labor Standards Act. A few States have higher minimum wage requirements and stronger laws protecting young workers.
The Federal Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act provides special protections for migrant and seasonal farm workers, whether national or transnational migrants, by requiring:
In consideration of the special protections afforded under the H-2A program, the Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act does not apply to these workers, though other Federal workplace protection laws, such as the Fair Labor Standards Act, do apply.
Some States – and many which use large numbers of migrant farm workers – have similar, in some cases stronger, laws regulating farm labor contractors (such as by requiring bonding) or migrant farm workers.
Federal labor protection laws generally apply without regard to a worker’s immigration status. It does not matter whether the worker is legally authorized to work in the U.S. or not; the laws apply to and establish minimum requirements that must be complied with by the employer. This is not the case with laws – such as unemployment insurance – that provide specific benefits to workers.
Similarly, while the U.S. has special programs targeted to improving migrant farm workers’ health, housing and education, eligibility for participation in most social "safety net" programs is limited to legal immigrants.
The largest group of transnational migrant workers in the U.S. works in agriculture – an estimated 600,000 workers, predominantly from Mexico. The U.S. Government, through the U.S. Department of Labor, has taken aggressive steps to ensure labor standards compliance, including wage protection and recovery, with respect to both national and transnational agricultural workers. These steps include:
As alluded to earlier, the objective of the North American Agreement on Labor Cooperation (NAALC) is to improve working conditions and living standards in the three countries of Canada, Mexico and the United States. The preferred approach of the NAALC to reach this objective is through cooperation -- exchanges of information, technical assistance, and consultations. The Agreement also provides some oversight mechanisms to ensure that labor laws are being enforced in all three countries. The NAALC requires each government to maintain a National Administrative Office (NAO) within its Department or Ministry of Labor. The NAOs serve as points of contact and sources of information among themselves, and with other governmental agencies. They receive and respond to public communications (or queries) regarding labor law issues arising in another NAFTA country. Each NAO establishes its own domestic procedures. In accordance with these procedures, the countries review labor law issues brought forth by each other's NAOs. In addition to these reviews, any matter within the scope of the Agreement may be the subject of Ministerial consultations, whose aim is to resolve matters through cooperation. The NAALC's scope includes the treatment of migrant workers. The Agreement obligates each country to: ensure that its labor laws and regulations provide for high labor standards and to continue to strive to improve those standards; promote compliance with and effectively enforce its labor law through appropriate government action; ensure that persons with a legally recognized interest have access to administrative, judicial, quasi-judicial or labor tribunals for enforcement of its labor law and that proceedings for the enforcement of its labor law are fair, equitable and transparent; and, ensure that its labor laws and regulations are promptly published or otherwise made available to the public and promote public awareness of its labor law.
2) facilitate, as appropriate, the payment of full wages owed when the worker has returned to his/her country, and allow them to arrange the transfer of their personal effects;
As noted in Guyana's voluntary submission, all workers have the right to recover all wages owed to them; there are no foreign exchange restrictions.
In the United States the Department of Labor, through its labor enforcement activities, collects "back wages" for improperly paid farm workers – approximately $2 million in FY 1998 – and seeks to assure that these funds get to the workers to whom they are owed, including through liaison with the Mexican consulates located throughout the U.S. The Labor Department has also established relationships with the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) in an effort to assure that unauthorized workers are not discouraged from complaining to the Labor Department about illegal employment practices, and to assure that unauthorized workers who are apprehended and repatriated by INS are properly paid for any work performed in the U.S.
Mexico has 42 Consulates in the United States that support Mexican nationals. Protecting the rights and interests of Mexican citizens abroad covers migratory, labor, criminal, judicial and administrative issues. This support can include, for example, provision of information in the repatriation of minors and sick persons, visits to detention centers, help to obtain past wages, and legal representation. Mexico has launched an information campaign about the cost of sending money through different companies.
3) recognize the rights of citizenship and nationality of the children of all migrant workers who may be entitled to such rights, and any other rights they may have in each country;
The bases for acquiring citizenship are defined in the respective constitutions and citizenship laws of each SOA participant country, specifying whether the principles of jus soli and jus sanguinis apply.
Pursuant to the 14th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, for example, every individual born in the United States and subject to its jurisdiction is an American citizen, irrespective of the status of the individual’s parents. The only exception to this principle of jus soli would be the offspring of individuals having diplomatic immunity in the United States. Since the latter are not "subject to the jurisdiction of the United States," their children are not United States citizens. U.S. - born children of migrant workers, "both regular and irregular," are entitled to U.S. citizenship, as evidenced by a birth certificate issued by the state of birth.
The Government of Mexico has promoted an initiative allowing Mexican nationals by birth, to adopt another nationality, without losing their Mexican nationality. This gives Mexicans living abroad the possibility of acquiring the same rights as host-country nationals.
4) encourage the negotiation of bilateral or multilateral agreements, regarding the remission of social security benefits accrued by migrant workers;
As part of the national policy to promote fundamental human rights, the Brazilian Government attaches great importance to bilateral social security agreements and has entered into agreements with the following hemispheric counterparts: Argentina, Uruguay, Chile, and Paraguay. These agreements seek to guarantee the social security rights enshrined in the laws of the signatory countries to workers and legal dependents who are residents in the other country or are in transit outside the country of origin. Another important instrument for protecting MERCOSUR - country workers is the "MERCOSUR Multilateral Social Security Agreement," supplemented by an administrative regulation which seeks to ensure that all workers outside their country of origin and their dependents enjoy the same social security rights and benefits as those guaranteed to nationals.
A signed agreement between El Salvador and Mexico provides for emergency medical treatment to covered nationals of these two countries.
Guyana is not a party to any international social security agreement, but has signed and ratified the CARICOM Social Security Agreement.
In St. Christopher and Nevis, migrant workers are members of the Social Security scheme that guarantees compensation to an injured worker. Deductions are made from their wages, moreover, to ensure no loss of social security benefits from the migrant worker's host country.
In the United States, the Social Security Administration (SSA) continues to pursue agreements to improve the coordination of Social Security benefit rights and contribution liability for migrant workers. These bilateral Social Security agreements eliminate dual Social Security coverage and taxation and help fill gaps in benefit protection for workers who divide their careers between the United States and another country. In the Western Hemisphere, an agreement is already in effect with Canada. In recent years, the geographic focus of SSA's agreement negotiations has shifted, and Latin America has become an area of special emphasis. Following President Clinton's state visit to Chile immediately following the Santiago Summit of the Americas in April 1998, the two countries initiated negotiations and later successfully concluded work on the U.S.-Chilean Social Security agreement, which is expected to enter into force in early 2001. Initial discussions with Argentina have already taken place and SSA is also hopeful that it can begin agreement negotiations with several additional Latin American countries within the next few years.
In addition to the comprehensive bilateral Social Security agreements described above, SSA has also concluded less formal bilateral arrangements with a number of Western Hemisphere countries to ensure the unrestricted export of each country's Social Security benefits to citizens of the other country. As a result, the United States exports retirement and disability benefits to citizens of the following Western Hemisphere countries: Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Grenada, Guatemala, Guyana, Jamaica, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Peru, St. Christopher and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Trinidad-Tobago, Uruguay and Venezuela. In addition, U.S. law allows benefits to be exported to citizens of countries that do not have a generally applicable social insurance or pension system if the worker lived in the U.S. at least 10 years or has 40 quarters of U.S. Social Security coverage. Under this provision, benefits are currently exported to citizens of three Western Hemisphere countries: Haiti, Honduras and St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
5) protect all migrant workers and their families, through law enforcement and information campaigns, from becoming victims of exploitation and abuse from alien smuggling;
Rising concerns over the dangers and effects of alien smuggling have prompted actions by SOA participant countries on several fronts, including legislation and public affairs. In order to assist foreign governments in their design and passage of tougher anti-smuggling legislation, including the criminalization of such activity, the U.S. Department of State shared with them model legislation developed for this purpose. Countries such as Panama, Guatemala, El Salvador, Peru and Nicaragua subsequently have passed, or have pending, anti-alien smuggling legislation utilizing the model package. Colombia and Venezuela also have used the model legislation as a guide in efforts to strengthen their immigration laws.
In a coordinated effort involving various federal departments and agencies, the United States has initiated an anti-alien smuggling public information campaign, to inform Central American and regional target audiences of U.S. immigration policies and the dangers of migrating illegally to the United States. The media campaign includes television and radio messages in Spanish directed at targeted populations. The messages will be tailored for each country with careful attention given to manner in which the messages are conveyed. The United States has also expanded its reporting on alien trafficking in the annual Country Reports on Human Rights Practices. Within the United States, the Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division established a worker exploitation complaint and rescue line to receive calls to assist trafficking victims.
Mexico has launched an information campaign on the risks of irregular migration, particularly on trafficking of migrants. Mexico's national strategy also foresees the intervention of special groups (Grupos Beta) and several bilateral cooperation agreements with the United States to combat this illicit activity.
Efforts to combat alien smuggling/trafficking are an important and integral part of the RCM Plan of Action, one of several elements shared in common with the Summit Migrant Worker Initiative. RCM member countries have participated actively in various collective efforts:
6) prevent abuse and mistreatment of all migrant workers by employers or any authorities entrusted with the enforcement of migration policies and border control;
As described in its voluntary response, El Salvador is undertaking the modernization and computerization of its frontier installations to allow for more rapid completion of entry/departure procedures, and to facilitate communications between posts and central offices.
In the United States, the President established the national Worker Exploitation Task Force (WETF) in 1998, consisting of representatives from the U.S. Attorney General’s Office, the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division, Violence against Women Office, Office for Victims of Crime and Office of Policy Development, the U.S. Department of State, the U.S. Department of Labor, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Immigration and Naturalization Service. The WETF’s chief mission is to uncover and prosecute criminally the worst kind of employment-related abuses, including slavery and peonage. Many of these abuses occur in industries -- such as agriculture and garment manufacturing -- with a high percentage of immigrants in the workforce, including migrants. Other violations involve immigrants who are trafficked into prostitution.
Of continuing major concern is the increasing number of individuals dying from exposure and other causes while attempting to cross the border from Mexico to the United State illegally. In 1998, the United States and Mexico jointly announced the Border Safety Initiative (BSI) with the aim of ending this terrible phenomenon. Some of the measures carried out under the BSI have been the following:
Within the framework of the Working Group on Migration and Consular Affairs of the U.S. - Mexico Binational Commission, both countries expressed resolve to take further actions within their own territory and to heighten cooperative efforts to stop the deaths. The U.S. and Mexico signed in February 1999 a Memorandum of Understanding on border violence committing the two countries to improving communications and cooperation between U.S. law enforcement and Mexican consuls along the border. Implementation details are currently the subject of bilateral discussions. With the aim of ensuring the rights of migrants, United States authorities recently have prosecuted and secured convictions in at least two instances where law enforcement officials were accused of abusing migrants.
7) encourage and promote respect for the cultural identity of all migrants.
In El Salvador, the Ministry of the Interior has extended legal standing to various associations formed by foreign nationals and their descendants, for the purpose of preserving the customs and cultural identity of various groups within Salvadoran society.
Cultural diversity in Canada derives from citizens and residents with origins from around the world. Thus the Canadian Government's cultural policy is based on the principle of respect for cultural diversity. Canadian cultural institutions such as the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC), the Canada Council, and the National Film Board have all taken steps to ensure that diversity, including the migrant experience, is reflected in programming and activities. Through this broad spectrum of cultural institutions, Canada has put in place a wide range on initiatives that do encourage and promote respect for the cultural identity of migrants. These policies have their legislative grounding in the Multiculturalism Act and Broadcasting Act.
In the United States, a similarly highly diverse country in terms of its cultural makeup and traditions, governments at the federal, state, and municipal levels as well as national and local community associations all carry out a broad range of activities for the purpose of promoting respect for the cultural identity of migrants. These activities may take many forms beyond the traditional cultural celebrations. As but one example of other actions at the local and level, communities have self-organized to declare "hate free" zones as a means of stimulating awareness about cultural diversity; in other instances minority organizations have devised programs inviting greater interaction by governmental authorities, including law enforcement officials, in cultural awareness programs.
VII. Support the activities of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) with regard to the protection of the rights of migrant workers and their families, particularly through the Special Rapporteur for Migrant Workers.
Recognizing the importance that the Organization of American States (OAS) and countries in the Western Hemisphere have assigned to migrant workers within the hemispheric agenda particularly since the Santiago Summit, the IACHR and Special Rapporteur have undertaken various activities impacting directly on implementation of the Summit Migrant Worker Initiative. In each case the support of Summit participating countries has been an essential factor.
With the aim of developing a study of the situation of migrant workers and families in the hemisphere from a human rights perspective, the IACHR and Special Rapporteur prepared and distributed to OAS member countries an exhaustive questionnaire to elicit information on existing and legal human rights practices. To date the following countries have responded in varying degree: Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Chile, Dominica, Ecuador, Guatemala, Grenada, Honduras, Mexico, Saint Lucia, Trinidad and Tobago, Venezuela and the United States. Given the limited number of submissions received (less than half of the OAS membership) the IACHR has extended the time period for receiving additional responses. The IACHR sent a similar questionnaire to various NGOs involved with migration matters; to date the Mexican Academy of Human Rights has been the sole respondent. As Responsible Coordinator for the Initiative, the United States would like to urge all Summit participating countries to support this endeavor.
Guatemala and the United States extended facilitative assistance to the IACHR and Special Rapporteur for on-site visits in 1998 and 1999 to obtain information and insights first hand on situations experienced by Migrant Workers in these countries. While there the visiting mission had the opportunity to meet with government officials as well as representatives of NGOs and from Civil Society. The IACHR also published in 1999 its "Report on the Human Rights Situation in the Dominican Republic," which analyzed in particular the situation of Haitian migrant workers and their families there.
To support the activities of the IACHR and those of the Special Rapporteur, Mexico in 1999 contributed US $50,000 to the voluntary fund established by the Commission for this purpose.
Within the RCM framework, member countries have welcomed participation of the IACHR in various seminars dealing with human rights issues pertaining to migrants, and migrant workers. Acknowledging the important role of the Commission in promoting the rights of migrant workers, moreover, member countries approved the Commission's request for Observer Status during the Vth RCM Vice-Ministerial annual meeting last month.
As Responsible Coordinator, the U.S. continues to move forward with efforts to promote implementation of the Summit of the Americas (SOA) Migrant Worker Initiative. Looking ahead, the U.S. Department of State is promoting three interrelated activities in cooperation with the U.S.-based Migration Dialogue Project, IOM and ECLAC/CELADE during the remainder of year 2000:
1. Best Practices Workshop of U.S. experts. This will involve convening a two- day workshop in Sacramento, California in late April. The objective is to bring together a group of up to forty U.S. experts from various sectors (public, private, advocacy, migrants, labor, NGOs) to develop a suggested set of "best practices" for implementation within the U.S. of items specified in the SOA Plan of Action. These best practices can then be given wider domestic (and possibly international) dissemination.
2. Best Practices Workshop of international experts. The U.S. Department of State and IOM plan to organize and hold a companion workshop for Western Hemisphere experts in June at the ECLAC/CELADE headquarters in Santiago, Chile. The purpose will be to discuss and develop a set of suggested "best practices" for possible application within the Hemisphere in implementing the Migrant Worker section of the SOA Plan of Action. In this instance, IOM's involvement is more direct: serving as primary organizer of the event, providing assistance in selecting the experts, guiding workshop discussions and producing an after-action report containing suggested sets of "best practices." IOM is making headway in reaching a cooperative agreement with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR). Once such an agreement is formalized, the Department of State and IOM will have the means in place to draw on IACHR's technical advice for this project. This would represent an added plus since cooperation with the IACHR is a specific element of the action plan. The Department of State then will seek facilitative assistance of IOM, the Organization of American States (OAS) Office of Summit Follow-up, and Regional Conference on Migration (RCM) in disseminating this information as widely as possible.
3. Symposium on Migration in the Americas. ECLAC/CELADE and IOM are planning to hold a major three-day symposium in Costa Rica on Migration in the Americas this coming September. At our suggestion, among the prospective agenda items to be discussed will be the SOA Migrant Worker initiative. The OAS, IACHR, UN Population Fund (UNPF), and Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) have responded very positively with expressions of support for and, in come cases offers to join as co-sponsors of, the event. In the role as SOA Responsible Coordinator, the U.S. Government (Department of State/PRM) will be contributing a majority share of the operational budget, including those costs associated with participation by NGOs. From our perspective, the symposium will provide an excellent opportunity to disseminate more widely information on best practices developed during the April and June workshops, as well as stimulate greater awareness of the Migrant Worker Initiative on a hemisphere-wide basis.[SIRG/2000/XVIII/tracker.htm][SIRG/2000/XVIII/tracker.htm]