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Journalist calls for alternative to forced migration

| Monday, November 10, 2014

Photographer and journalist David Bacon explored the relationship between employment rates and migration in a lecture Monday titled “The Right to Stay Home: Justice for Migrants and Sending Communities.”

Bacon said many cases of migration from Mexico to the United States can be attributed to joblessness and limited educational opportunities south of the border.

“One of the most important movements in Mexico today is for the right to stay home, which means the right to an alternative to forced migration,” Bacon said. “It’s not that people think there’s something wrong with migration … but they think it should be a choice, not something forced on you.”

The recent economic downturn drove an influx of Mexican workers north in search of a better quality of life, Bacon said.

“Mexico suffered when the U.S. economy took a dive,” he said. “When the current recession started in the United States … hundreds of thousands of people [in Mexico] lost their jobs. So where do they go?”

Bacon said workers must consider migrating to the United States when they lack other viable options.

“[Workers in Mexico] are fighting for their right to stay in Mexico,” Bacon said. “The consequence of losing those fights is that people have to do whatever it takes to survive — increasingly, what that means is to leave [their home country].”

Bacon said the disproportionally high cost of living in certain areas in Mexico is another incentive of Mexican migration to the United States.

“The cost of a gallon of milk in a supermarket in Tijuana is more than it is in San Diego,” Bacon said. “Workers live in homes that are made from pallets and other materials that are cast off by the factories … with no sewers or running water … or electricity.”

Bacon said without documentation, migrants face numerous obstacles once they decide to work in the United States.

“Here in the United States, people without papers pay taxes and social security, but there’s no unemployment, there’s no disability, there’s no retirement,” he said. “If you don’t have any papers, it’s like the New Deal never happened.”

Bacon said Congress should take a more accommodating stance towards undocumented migrants instead of passing harsher laws.

“When people have rights, people will organize and try and get something better,” he said. “First of all, we need legalization for the people that don’t have it … a kind of a status so that people can live like normal people. We have to get rid of those detention centers … and I guess no more guest-worker programs.”

Bacon said given the proximity of the U.S. and Mexico, collaboration is necessary to improve worker conditions in both countries.

“The reality is, whether we live in Mexico or the U.S., we’re facing the same economic and trade policies and even the same employers,” he said. “So our ability to reach across the border and understand each other, and … act together — this is the only way will be able to survive.”

Despite the hardships that many undocumented migrants face, Bacon said he is hopeful that cross-national reform will improve the situation.

“We can have a world, I believe, that respects human rights, and we can stop deportations,” he said. “We can have a system of security for working families on both sides of the border.”

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