UTPA hosts migration forum on national and international issues
Posted: 07/12/2002
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Dual citizenship, allowing immigrants to vote, legalization of certain immigrants, and guaranteed rights are among points being considered for inclusion in a document being worked on by world-renowned experts who met Friday, July 12 at The University of Texas-Pan American.

More than 20 world-renowned experts and leaders in transnational security and international migration prepared a declaration defining the rights and responsibilities of countries. The document will be considered for formal adoption later this year at an international conference.

The forum, titled "Sending and Receiving Countries in a World of Migration," was led by Dr. Juan Hernández, senior advisor to Mexican President Vicente Fox for the Office for Mexicans Living Abroad. Hernandez -- an American whose family immigrated from Mexico - said the document, "Declaration in Defense of Migrants in 2002," outlines the rights and responsibilities of the home and destination countries.

"We've been working on a document that we may present at the Metropolis Conference in Oslo (Norway) in September," said Hernandez.

The working draft features eight principles for migrant sending and receiving nations. The principles under consideration include legalizing certain migrants, allowing migrants to vote and have dual/multiple citizenship with their country of origin, and guaranteeing their rights in health, education and labor.

According to the International Organization for Migration, there are more than 150 million migrants in the world. Hernandez said emigrants across the globe help boost many countries' economies, especially the relationship between the United States and Mexico.

"Of course, Mexican immigrants, if I may emphasize, are fueling the economy of the United States and Mexico, and I believe that (Federal Reserve System Chairman Alan) Greenspan said himself, 'Who knows where the United States would be if it were not for immigrants,'" Hernandez said. "I don't think that there is anything more patriotic in the United States than dignifying immigrants because 99 percent of us in this country fall into that category."

More than 20 experts in migration came from as far as the Philippine Islands. Among the participants was Dr. Jorge Bustamante, Notre Dame University; Yossi Shain, Georgetown University; Dr. Alejandro Carrillo-Castro, former head of Mexico's National Institute for Migration; Omar de la Torre, director general for Migrant Assistance, Office for Mexicans Abroad; Demetrios Papademetriou, co-director of the Migration Policy Institute, New York; Patricia Santo-Tomas, secretary of the Philippine Department of Labor and Employment and chair of the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration; Khalid Koser, Migration Research Unit, University College, London; and numerous others.

Dr. Juan Hernandez, senior advisor to Mexican President Vicente Fox for the Office of Mexicans Living Abroad, speaks during the recent migrant forum at UTPA.

UTPA participants included the UTPA Center for Border Economic Studies (CBEST) Director José Pagán and Alberto Dávila, chair of the economics and finance department.

Págan said participating in the proceedings showed that UTPA is important in the creating of this declaration because of the University's large migrant population.

"It was a great opportunity for the University to get involved in the migration policy in this way, and it was a good opportunity for the University to get the recognition as a place where research is conducted in migration," Pagan said.

CBEST was established at UTPA to serve as a public policy research unit dedicated to the study of problems unique to the U.S.-Mexico border economy. Roland S. Arriola, vice president for External Affairs at UTPA, said CBEST will continue to be important.

"We see The University of Texas-Pan American as being in the vortex of any issue dealing with the border," Arriola said. The forum was sponsored by CBEST, Mexico's Office of the President for Mexicans Abroad, The University of Texas at Dallas Center for U.S.-Mexico Studies and the Migration Policy Institute.

"We purposely had this forum at UTPA and on the border because this is where many of the issues really come together," Hernandez said. "One of the most wonderful ways that we can help the country and help the University is through greater efforts for greater trade. Emigrants come to the United States for two reasons. One is because family members are here, and the other attraction for the United States is huge because it is the greatest country in the world."