Apparently it was International Migrants Day on Dec. 18.
That day was designated in 1990 when the United Nations adopted the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families in an effort to bring awareness to the plight of migrant workers, regardless of legal status.
But, alas, there was not a peep about it in Connecticut. Or if there were events that celebrated the tradition of a state—and country—that proudly boasts of its pilgrims who migrated to this soil, The Hartford Guardian missed that memo.
A creolization of the peoples who pupolated the North American continent before the twentieth century is only highlighted on Thanksgiving Day, albeit reluctantly by some, including Native Americans.
In fact, a cursory search on the Internet revealed an outdated website for the volunteer-run Connecticut Immigration and Refugee Coalition that is seemingly inactive. Or maybe some of us are just left out of the loop.
That’s why The Guardian is calling for a Governor’s Commission on African and Caribbean Immigrant Affairs. This proposed statewide entity would serve as a point of cultural exchange and economic global partnerships between this state and the host countries of two of the most marginalized migrant communities in the world. This Commission would also include Afro-Latinos, who are not as visible as their white counterparts nor protected by the Commissions already in place.
For the uninitiated, the African continent and the Caribbean region are poised for economic growth. Ghana now has one of the fastest gross domestic product in the world. And the Caribbean has demonstrated its talent and brain power. China has no hang-ups with “the Dark Continent” and the Caribbean. And so they have taken notice. In this case, money and geopolitics trump foolishness.
If this state wants to really expand its economic base and produce more jobs, as it has professed, it would behoove Gov. Dannel Malloy to take heed and look to the Mother Continent and the Caribbean, just like he has looked to Israel and other European countries.
But in the meanwhile, we have a crisis on our hand. And it needs Malloy’s full attention.
Immigrants of African descent are facing a most vile form of persecution. Indeed, Africans are the most vulnerable population in the Americas, according to historical and contemporary reports.
Earlier this year, a boat with Ethiopians and Ghanaians capsized near Lampedusa, an island off the coast of Italy. The tragic event took the lives of about 500 people and conjured up images of ships sailing across the ocean with black bodies during the height of the Atlantic Slave Trade. But these Africans were searching for a better way out of neo-colonial and economic conditions, which makes their move an act of resistance.
Not long after, we learned about a boat full of Haitian men, women and children whose boat capsized in waters near the Bahamas Islands.
But the Dominican Republican went a bit further with its brand of evil. The government invalidated the birthright of f Dominicans of Haitian descent, stripping them of citizenship.
Afro-Latinos don’t fare well either. According to a recent report by the Center for Immigrant Rights, migrants in Veracruz, Mexico are fighting for fair work and fair wages.
In Connecticut, some immigrants say that the hostility can be felt by African and Caribbean immigrants and their children in school, work and church. The fights are largely ignored or treated as a nonissue.
The migrants of today may not face religious persecution. But they definitely face the same kind of intolerance that prompted it during the Reformation in Europe, which has taught us that hate breed hate.
And hate in any form or shade is corrosive to the soul. Across America, African and Caribbean immigrants are brutally attacked by native-born blacks. This kind of nativism—historically seen in whites who formed the Ku Klux Klan in the late 1800s, is often dismissed as inconsequential and disturbingly justified with illogical and pernicious arguments. This ought to stop. Today’s immigrants should not be criminalized or serve as scapegoats for frustrated working-class Americans.
The UN’s resolution that guarantees migrant workers protection from abuses should be bandied about widely, especially to inform those who fear or oppose the presence of migrants. They should learn that migration is as old as civilization itself. And that their brand of hate cannot, and will not, stop migration. It never has, and it never will.
So perhaps it’s time to revisit the origins of America’s founding and its economic and social progress as a nation: forced and voluntary immigrants. If not, we should join the Republican-led House of Representatives who left Congress without voting on immigration reform and consider plans to erase these words off the Statute of Liberty: “give me your tired and your poor.” And then we should deem ourselves hypocrites for not honoring the UN’s resolution to protect the rights of all migrants, especially as workers.
And here in Connecticut and across the nation, African and Caribbean migrants are most in need of that kind of protection.
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