This December 18, International Migrants Day, the crisis of people in movement deepens across the globe. From Europe to Southeast Asia and many places in between, war, insecurity, political repression, climate change, economic plight, and the yearnings of family reunifcation continue propelling people from one end of the planet to the other.
“Migration, as a problem, defined 2015,” said William Lacy Swing, general director of the International Organization for Migration (IOM), in honor of International Migrants Day. The current year, Swing added, was one of “massive and rapid population movements..the world was in movement and constant change, from the mountains to the deserts and oceans.”
Swing estimated that one in seven human beings on the earth, or more than one billion people, are migrants.
In a statement marking December 18, Swing’s organization said 990,761 people arrived to Europe from Africa and the Middle East during 2015, with more than half the number consisting of Syrian nationals.
The IOM projected that the number of the migrants and refugees landing in Europe this year would reach one million people by Tuesday, December 22. Despite “cold temperatures and dangerous conditions in the sea, “the journey continued across the Mediterranean, the IOM reported.
In the United States, immigration is back high on the political agenda, both nationally and at the state level.
In New Mexico, driver’s licenses for immigrants loom as another political battle that promise to flare up again next month when the New Mexico State Legislature convenes, just as it has every year since Republican Governor Susana Martinez took office in 2011.
Unsuccessful so far in attempts to cancel state driver’s licenses first approved for undocumented residents under the administration of former Democratic Governor Bill Richardson in 2003, Martinez and her supporters are likely to make another bid that would disallow regular licenses for state residents without papers.
The governor and her political allies argue that besides posing a security problem, the current system does not comply with the federal REAL ID Act, which may or may not be enforced sometime in the near future in New Mexico and other states.
Michael Lonegran, spokesman for Martinez, recently told the Albuquerque press that a substantial “majority of New Mexicans want to end the dangerous practice of granting driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants.”
But immigrant residents and their advocates in New Mexico are countering efforts to yank the licenses and/or institute a distinct driver’s permit.
Organized by Somos un Pueblo Unido, a New Mexico-based immigrant and labor rights organization, immigrant activists and their allies have been conducting vigils throughout New Mexico this past week.
Co-sponsored by the New Mexico Conference of Catholic Bishops and local churches, the events are scheduled to run until Monday, December 21.
In a press release, Somos noted that Governor Martinez opposed compromise legislation proposed during the last legislative session by Republican state Senator Stuart Ingle and Democratic state Senator John Arthur Smith.
“The REAL ID Act does NOT require nor encourage states to brand immigrants with a discriminatory driver’s permit, as some legislators and the Albuquerque Journal Editorial Board want people to believe,” wrote Marcela Díaz, Executive Director of Somos Un Pueblo Unido.
“A driver’s permit would stigmatize people based on their ethnicity and national origin. It is unnecessary, xenophobic, and anti-Latino.”
Added Leopoldo Martinez, a 15-year resident of New Mexico, “We pray legislators follow the lead of my senator, Stuart Ingle, who has given New Mexico an alternative that preserves our dignity and rejects the politics of hate.”
In Mexico, meanwhile, migrants headed to the United States encounter ongoing, perilous conditions that include death, disappearance and deportation.
Deportations of undocumented migrants, especially Central Americans attempting to reach the United States, continue unabated. For instance, in joint operations within the past week, the National Migration Institute and Federal Police detained 70 foreign nationals in different operations taking place both the southern part of Chihuahua state and Palomas, a small crossing on the border with New Mexico.
Among the detainees were 20 Guatemalans who were being transported by human traffickers via taxi or bus across Chihuahua to the border city of Ciudad Juarez. While the traffickers look at jail time in Mexico, the Guatemalans face deportation back to their homeland.
Scanning the global situation, the IOM’s William Lacy Swing urged legal solutions to an unrelenting migration phenomenon.
“We should recognize that migration is the multi-tendency of our time and we should treat it with sensitivity, without defamations, if we hope to get some where,” he said.
Additional sources: Nortedigital.mx/AP, December 18, 2015. El Sol de Tijuana/OEM, December 18, 2015. KOB.com, December 10, 2015. Article by Blair Miller.