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Immigrants Are Part Of Us


August 13, 2008

We in Hartford live in a globalized city. We are intimately and historically linked to the peoples and places of the Caribbean, Latin America, Africa, Europe and Asia.

Living in a globalized city means that many languages, colors and sociocultural formations abound; people brought together by global economic forces beyond their control and now closely integrated. As a fellow migrant and resident of this vibrant city, I support the new immigration ordinance introduced by Hartford City Councilman Luis Cotto and passed by the council Monday night, which bars city officials from making inquiries into immigration status except in criminal cases. I urge Mayor Eddie Perez to sign the measure into law.

We need to be united. The vision behind the ordinance is both noble and practical. It acknowledges that we are intimately a part of each other. In Hartford, to divide us by the status of our residency would separate children from parents, brothers from sisters, neighbor from neighbor, consumers and workers from businesses, and parishioner from friend. It would negate who we are, a complex global self.

Singling out or blaming "those people" for their border transgressions fails to take into account the complex historical and global causes of contemporary migration. In many cases, our government's own intervention has triggered, encouraged and sustained migratory flows and patterns from Puerto Rico, Mexico and other Caribbean and Central American nations.

For example, a closer look at the case of Mexican transnational migration, which produces the largest migratory flow to the U.S., shows an active involvement by U.S. governmental authorities and industrialists in recruiting Mexican nationals to migrate and work in U.S. industries.

By all accounts, global migration is a complex phenomena that has been developing in multiple ways for centuries, affecting both sending and receiving countries in many regions of the world. Dr. Vijay Prashad, in a panel conversation at Trinity College last fall with Saskia Sassen, a prominent scholar of globalization, stated that modern globalization produces migrants. It triggers human mobility, social dislocation and displacement.

This challenges the traditional narrative of "elective choice" to migrate. Inherent in global migration is severe inequality, hardship and political disenfranchisement. Part of the modern economic equation is the creation of mobile pools of labor, legal and illegal, without communal rights or political rights, or having limited rights. That is, without family unity, political representation and security. All of this reduces human beings to mere economic cogs, easily disposable.

In the absence of federal leadership, cities must act. Hartford's immigration ordinance is not a new law, it is codifying existing practice. It challenges us to stop Immigration and Control Enforcement raids that seek to criminalize workers and spread fear in our neighborhoods. It demonstrates an understanding that migrant workers are entitled to basic human rights, such as the right to work and due process, regardless of where they come from or how they got here.

If corporate entities, goods, capital and financial global players have border-crossing rights, then why shouldn't human beings be afforded the same legal protections? Eleanor Roosevelt once stated, "Where, after all, do universal human rights begin? In small places, close to home."

It is in this home called Hartford that modern-day migrants make every effort to stay connected to family and communities and earn a hard wage over time and across space. Councilman Cotto's initiative challenges us to recognize this and respect our unique social composition in a global and multicultural world.

Enrique Sepulveda is an assistant professor of education at Saint Joseph College in West Hartford. He lives in Hartford.

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
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