The Obama administration made another pronouncement today about immigration reform being taken up in 2010. Apart from the valid critiques of whether or not proposed changes will truly constitute “comprehensive immigration reform,” there is a deeper question. What about the broader economic context of immigration?
As we approach the 10th anniversary of the Seattle WTO protests which Naomi Klein reflected on today, it is time to pause and make the connection again between (im)migration and globalization.
Migration is largely fueled by economic necessity due to lack of sufficient opportunity in home countries. But the strong and vibrant ties between migrants and their families and communities back home speak to an unyielding connection complicated by simple economics.
For instance, Mexican hometown associations send back millions of dollars each year to fund projects in their communities of origin. These community-based transactions are replicated hundreds of times all over the globe. Taken together, it represents transnational action on an unprecedented scale.
This is what La Liga Global (or the Global League of Community Sustainers) plans to celebrate in activities in more than a dozen cities around the world between Human Rights Day (Dec. 10) and International Migrants Day (Dec. 18). They understand that migration is more than the laws that restrict life choices; it is an act of reconstructing transnational families. In the coming months, La Liga Global will launch a global social investment fund to further consolidate migrant economic power.
At $338 billion a year, remittances represent profits that could form the third largest company in the world. The world’s 200 million migrants form a population large enough to constitute the world’s fifth largest country.
Each remittance, then, represents an opportunity to hold accountable those who profit off migrants’ hard labor. This is where the work of La Liga Global to transform the money transfer industry comes in. Their campaign represents the possibility of replacing economic concentration with economic democracy.
La Liga Global works with its members to lead corporate social responsibility campaigns and legislative strategies that push a unified global agenda for a more fair and equitable system of money transfers. In the United States, there are active campaigns in Oakland, CA and Rhode Island to pass legislation that would better regulate the industry by mandating transparent pricing and profit generation.
Migrants are often the most vulnerable populations and are simultaneously scapegoated for a country’s economic woes (witness the United States). But migrants across the globe have demonstrated that they are not waiting for legal reforms to take control of their economic futures, to make migration a choice and not a necessity for economic survival.