On Sunday, December 18, many throughout the world recognized International Migrants Day, a day designated by the U.N. to recognize the role migrants play in nations across the globe. The U.N. first established International Migrants Day in 2000, as part of a larger effort to disseminate information and raise awareness of the human rights and the fundamental freedoms held by migrants. In a statement released in honor of this year’s Day of the Migrant, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon writes that it is a myth that migrants are a burden to the societies they inhabit, and he argues that we should take this opportunity to instead acknowledge the vital contributions these individuals make in their communities.
In its response to International Migrants Day, the U.S. State Department published several pieces on its official blog Dipnote regarding the importance of the annual event to this country. In one, Special Representative for International Labor Affairs Barbara Shailor urges readers to join her in supporting our nation’s immigrants, writing that labor migration is crucial to U.S. economic growth and development, but also to our country’s rich cultural diversity. In another piece, Public Affairs Officer for the Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration Elizabeth Schlachter writes that too often the topic of immigration in this country is one fraught with tension and animosity. She argues that December 18 should be an opportunity for people in the U.S. to reaffirm our national commitment to “tolerance, diversity and human rights.”
Events celebrating International Migrants Day took place across the globe this weekend. In Accra, Ghana, activists posted guerrilla ads on the sides of city buses, extolling the benefits of attracting immigrants to the country. In Manila, Philippines, the government sponsored a weeklong slate of events including a conference, art exhibition and concert focused on protecting Filipino migrants around the world. In New York City, activists involved in the Occupy Wall Street movement marched through Manhattan protesting the income inequality suffered by many immigrants in this country.
In Tucson this week, nearly two hundred people marched to the office of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, ultimately presenting petitions asking that the U.S. government establish a more fair, humane and realistic immigration policy. In particular, these activists are seeking to have deportation cases dropped against many non-criminal migrants in the state with families and strong ties to their communities here.
The Tucson marchers may have an ally in Ban Ki-moon, who argues that supporting and protecting migrants in our societies should not be seen as an act of charity. Rather, he writes, “When supported by the right policies and human rights protections, migration can be a force for good for individuals as well as for countries of origin, transit and destination.”