Conference on International Migration:
Human Rights and Trafficking in Persons in The Americas
U.S. Department of State
Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration
Headquarters, Santiago, Chile, 20-22 November 2002
HUMAN RIGHTS OF MIGRANTS AND REGIONAL SECURITY
Wednesday, November 20, 2002
would like to express the appreciation of the Government of the United States of
America to the Government of Chile, for hosting this important event and for
extending a warm welcome to all of us.
2001, Heads of State and Government of the Americas, meeting in Quebec City at
the Third Summit of the Americas, renewed their commitment to hemispheric
integration and national and collective responsibility for improving the
economic well-being and security of their peoples.
Declaration specifically acknowledges the contributions made by migrants to
receiving societies and to their countries of origin, and commits participating
countries to ensuring the dignified, humane treatment of migrants, with
appropriate legal and human rights protections, including safe and healthy labor
conditions. More specifically, the Quebec Plan of Action commits governments to
strengthen regional and bilateral cooperation on migration issues, to establish
an Inter-American program within the OAS for the promotion and protection of the
human rights of migrants and their families; to exchange information on
trafficking networks; and to develop preventive information campaigns on the
risks faced by migrants, particularly women and children. This conference
supports the mandates of the Quebec Plan of Action relating to migration and
trafficking in persons. It is my pleasure be here today and express my
Government’s commitment to the Quebec Plan of Action, and to the issues being
discussed in this Hemispheric Conference, the first of its kind.
Migration and trafficking in persons are important issues to me.
At the U.S. Department of Justice, where I worked before
joining the Department of State, I had responsibility for developing parts of
our regulations implementing the Trafficking Victims’ Protection Act of 2000.
This legislation is the direct result of the great importance my government
places on the issue of trafficking in persons. The Act mandates, among other
things, that the U.S. Department of State issue a yearly report on the status of
trafficking in persons in the world, and on the efforts of governments to combat
this scourge. The law created, for example, the so-called ‘T visa’ to provide
protection to victims of the most severe forms of trafficking who cooperate with
law enforcement against those responsible for their condition. Under this part
of the statute, when a trafficking victim suffers "extreme hardship" involving
unusual and severe harm if returned to their home countries, this new T visa
allows them to remain in the United States. After three years in T status, these
victims of human trafficking may apply for permanent residency. Subject to some
limitations, the regulation also allows victims to apply for non-immigrant
status for their spouses and children. Victims under the age of 21 may apply for
non-immigrant status for their parents as well.
U.S. has been focused, with governments around the world, in combating
transnational organized crime.
We have signed the Protocol against Smuggling of Migrants by Land, Sea,
and Air, as well as the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in
Persons, especially Women and Children. Over one hundred countries have signed
these Protocols. We congratulate Chile, our host country, for its August 2002
signature of the Protocols, and we encourage others in the Hemisphere to do the
Turning to migration, it is interesting to consider that most migration occurs
within national borders.
As was noted
this morning, only 3 percent of the world’s population resides in a country
outside their country of origin. Yet when we talk of migration, most of the time
we focus on this small segment of migrant flows. The United Nations estimates
that in the past 25 years, the migrant population living outside their native
countries has doubled to some 175 million people, of whom nearly a quarter live
in North America. We also know that most Latin American countries experience
"out-migration," and that Caribbean nations have some of the world’s highest
rates. Our Census Bureau estimated that in 2000, 10 percent of the total U.S.
population - or 28 million persons -- was born abroad, with half of the
foreign-born persons coming from Latin America. This migration phenomena is
certainly worth spotlighting. Ladies and Gentlemen, we are all part of a
Hemisphere on the move.
from my country's perspective, we view migration as positive and believe that
immigration serves our national interest.
States is a nation of immigrants. As President Bush said in his remarks at Ellis
Island during a large swearing in ceremony for our new citizens: "We're a
diverse country, and getting more diverse - and these virtues are what keeps
this great country together. Believing in them and living by them, this great
land will always be united."
course, certain changes in our immigration practice have been required since
As a result of the horrendous attacks a year ago and our
ongoing war against Al Qaida and international terrorism, my country is engaged
in a debate that touches on our core values, a debate that may take quite a
while to work through: how do we reconcile our openness to immigrants with the
need to protect ourselves, in the most fundamental way, from this new threat to
our national security? I can’t tell you exactly where this debate will come out,
but I do know that, as we are devising new measures to protect U.S. national
security and interests, we remain steadfastly determined to continue to welcome
newcomers, and to provide protection, refuge, and assistance to those who need
it. Undeniably, heightened security concerns underscore the importance of
orderly migration. Illegal movements of persons can be considered a threat to
national, as well as international security. Our challenge remains to create
borders closed to illegal migrants, smugglers and traffickers, and yet open to
legitimate flows, including persons in need of protection. As President Bush
said in Monterrey earlier this year: "We will build a border that is more open
and more secure. And we will confront the issue of migration in a spirit of
concerns with regard to migrants are not exclusively security-related, however.
also concerned about their fair treatment. Open and orderly migration not only
protects migrants and their families from dangerous smugglers and traffickers;
it can also protect them from exploitation or discrimination, including from
abusive employers. Unfortunately, where there are migrants, there can also be
manifestations of racism, xenophobia, or discrimination against them. Some
believe that labor migrants contribute to unemployment by taking jobs from the
native born, and that they can be a burden on the social welfare system.
Yet studies on the
economic impact of immigration in several developed countries have shown that
immigrants overall represent a positive factor in the economy, leading to job
creation and economic growth. The United States believes that maintaining a
generous immigration policy is vital to the health and well-being of our
would like now to talk specifically about migrant women, who may be particularly
vulnerable to discrimination, abuses, and other crimes. We know that in the past
few years, larger numbers of women have been migrating in search of employment
or family reunification. Those who stay behind when their husband migrates
likewise often face challenges as heads of households. Low-income women in
either situation confront many difficulties, including the responsibilities of
caring for families weakened by separation, lacking access to health care,
education, or job opportunities. Migrant women and children often are vulnerable
to sexual and gender-based violence, and are easy prey for smugglers and
traffickers. For these reasons, we believe we must pay special attention to the
situation of women and children in developing humane and fair migration
policies. We have also learned the importance of women’s groups to assist those
returning home especially to help and protect minors, single women, and female
head of households.
countries in the Hemisphere share our view on the importance of this issue. The
Quebec Plan of Action mandates the promotion of Women’s Human Rights and Gender
Equality. Last month, the UN Secretary General presented a report to the
Security Council on Women, Peace, and Security, calling, for example, for
greater representation of women in formal peace negotiations. The report points
out serious gaps in legal protections for women in conflict situations around
the world, and emphasizes the need for extensive capacity-building activities to
help develop women’s skills. My Government is strongly committed to addressing
these issues, in part by giving particular attention to the need for expanded
access to education for women and girls.
of concern, is the increasing number of "street children" in cities, large and
Most become street children in their countries of origin. More and more,
however, become displaced outside their countries of origin – Honduran children
in Vancouver, Salvadoran and Guatemalan children in the U.S., for example. Many
of these children undertake the long journey from their home country to North
America alone, in the hope of reuniting with their families. They sometimes
become lost or stuck in transit, or fall prey to smugglers, traffickers, and
other unscrupulous characters. Our countries must also craft policies that
respond to the special needs of migrant children. My government, for instance,
has undertaken a special campaign to combat the smuggling of migrant children to
the U.S. We hope you will join us in this effort.
closing, my country hopes this Conference, which supports the Quebec Plan of
Action, will permit us to engage on best practices and policies. I look forward
to continuing our discussions here and in other fora on migration and
trafficking in persons. We can and should use the existing mechanisms such as
ECLAC, the OAS (including the Inter-American Commission of Women – CIM), the
Summit of the Americas, the Regional Conference on Migration (RCM), and the
south American Conference on Migration (SACM) to link and strengthen our work.
Much has been done over the past few years at national and regional levels, as
well as through international bodies, on migration and related issues. These
include border security, smuggling, trafficking, gender equality, respect for
women’s human rights and dignity, and access to education and economic
opportunities. We should not shy away from the challenge to link these efforts.
We must explore ways to strengthen ties between the various on-going efforts in
our Hemisphere, thereby making them even more effective. We hope that this
Conference in Santiago de Chile will act as a springboard for expanded
discussions, both to address the legitimate needs of migrants, and to take
effective measures to eradicate trafficking in persons - issues of common
concern for all of us in the Western Hemisphere.
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