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Catholic Relief Services Looks South in the Immigration Debate

August 21, 2013 by

CRS advocates addressing root causes to alleviate push factors of immigration

Baltimore, MD, August 21, 2013 – Catholic Relief Services (CRS) is asking Congress to take a serious look at the factors driving migration to the U.S. as it considers immigration reform legislation.  CRS believes that the most effective way to address immigration is to both reform our current immigration system and reduce the need for high rates of migration in countries of origin.

“We believe that the current debate on immigration reform must include a recognition that migration does not occur in a vacuum or only as a domestic issue. We need to more effectively respond to the factors that are at the root of migration, including poverty, lack of public safety and persecution,” said Bill O’Keefe, Vice President of Government Relations and Advocacy for CRS. “It’s not about stopping migration, but about creating opportunities so that people have options- including – ‘the right not to migrate’.”

With 80% of the current unauthorized immigration originating in Latin America particularly Mexico and Central America, CRS recommends that particular attention be paid to shared regional efforts to address the economic and social factors driving migration from these countries, with a specific focus on decreasing rural poverty, vulnerability to displacement after natural disasters and high youth unemployment.

CRS recommends that common sense immigration reform legislation include:

  • An assessment of the primary factors driving migration to the U.S. from countries with the highest rates of unauthorized migration.  This assessment should include an analysis of the impact of current U.S. foreign policy and assistance on the causes of migration.
  • Development of  a strategy by the U.S. Department of State (DOS), the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and other federal agencies to more effectively target U.S. foreign policy and assistance in addressing  the economic, social, and security factors driving high rates of unauthorized  migration from prioritized countries.
  • Expanded coordination between USAID, relevant U.S government agencies and the governments of migrant-sending countries to promote public policies that prioritize inclusive growth, poverty reduction and sustainable alternatives to emigration.
  • Support of public-private investment and partnerships to promote rural development, urban employment and violence reduction.

In Latin America, CRS, in partnership with USAID, local civil society and governments as well as the private sector, is creating new and sustainable opportunities for families and communities who might otherwise be compelled to migrate.  CRS programs have improved the living standards of more than 67,000 farm families in eight countries in Latin America since 2007 by helping them to move from subsistence to agro enterprise farming.  In Nicaragua alone, the CRS-led Alliance to Create Rural Development Opportunities through Agroenterprise Relationships (ACORDAR) program has revolutionized how small coffee and vegetable farmers grow, cooperate and go to market with their product. This 4-year project created 6,000 new jobs and farmers increased their net income for vegetable production more than threefold.

CRS has also worked on bi-national efforts with Mexican and U.S. organizations, including the United Farmworkers, Global Workers and Catholic groups to address issues in the recruitment of temporary (H2A) farmworkers from Mexico. The project trained more than 11,000 people to identify and reduce abuses in farmworker recruitment for U.S. agriculture.  The research and recommendations from the project are being promoted with the U.S. and Mexican governments to increase accountability and protect both workers and employers from abusive recruitment practices.

Migration is a complex phenomenon. In migrant-sending countries, lack of economic opportunity and insecurity contribute heavily to the decision to migrate. Responsibility for addressing the root causes of unauthorized migration rests first with the countries of origin and the need for governments and societies to create viable opportunities for their people. However, CRS believes that it is also imperative that the United States re-examine the ways in which our trade, security, development and international assistance policies impact migrant-sending countries and can better contribute to sustainable development and shared regional prosperity. Ultimately, migration is not just an economic, social or legal issue. It is a moral issue with a human face making the current status quo unacceptable. We now have a rare chance to enact a balanced policy that addresses the causes and consequences of migration while supporting America’s tradition as an immigrant nation.

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