I am in El Salvador today. I live in Mexico City. I still consider San Diego to be home. It’s that connection, I think, that caused these videos to have such a huge impact on me. I don’t think I could ever watch them without my eyes watering, my throat tightening up. It’s only 30 minutes of your day. Please watch them. Please pass them on.
It’s difficult to watch such a powerful depiction of reality, of the same faces that are seen every day in California: washing the dishes, cleaning hotel rooms, picking the strawberries and tomatoes. Not only do so many become invisible victims on their journey, but those who do make it to the United States mostly become invisible workers with the hope that one day their children or grandchildren will “make it.”
So what can we do? Well, Amnesty International asks us to send a template email to Mexican president Felipe Calderon asking him to publish nationwide data on abuses against migrants. That’s a start. But I’m pretty skeptical about the effectiveness of online template petitions. The truth is that global migration is a complex issue rooted in economic inequality, globalized media, aspirational consumerism, and the human desire for an improved livelihood. No online petition is going to change that dynamic, but we can think of tactics to better protect the rights of all individuals – especially the most vulnerable – as we each pursue a better life.
What we all can do starting today is treat the migrant workers in our communities as people, as we would our friends, and not just invisible faces from unknown lands. We can learn more about the countries they come from. This afternoon I will be meeting with journalists from El Faro, a Salvadoran digital news site that has produced amazing coverage of Central American migration through Mexico. For those who speak Spanish, there is a CNN en Español interview with project lead Oscar Martínez.
Open Society Foundations (disclosure: my current employer) has just recently launched a new International Migration Initiative with two main objectives: 1) improve transparency and accountability in migration policy and 2) promoting equality and justice for migrants. If you are based in New York the initiative is seeking an unpaid part-time intern.