Migration, Governance and the Future

A Stanford University study from the Hoover institution underlines some startling facts about migration in the past and more importantly for the future*. Migrants have fled poverty and conflicts and are slated to continue to do so. The point which we can all anticipate is that not only is it a situation that has greatly affected the politics of both Europe and the US it is also one that will not change and possibly worsen.

Whether it is in Syria, Guatemala or Honduras, climate change driven drought set up a series of events. They led to poverty, to social uprisings and political upheavals, to migration which in turn led to border crises, unrest and issues such as those we are seeing at the southern border. Besides climate change and its way of creating or worsening events, a population explosion is foreseen in several parts of the world, stressing water shortages and urban resources.  When added to a growing proportion of young people who can’t either have an education or find work the result is seen to be more migration, more people escaping poverty, more political unrest. And the conflicts that are foreseen are not only within the countries that are and will be affected but also among several countries as we see now between Mexico and the US.

The authors of the report emphasize that this scenario is not inevitable if both rich and poor countries practice good governance. If the countries involved invest in education and job creation and if the rich countries facilitate a more prosperous future for them, people will want to stay home instead of becoming migrants.

The point that is made, one that to me is crucial, is the report’s  recommendation that it is in the interest of rich countries to help poorer ones to avoid all these consequences. Because then both sides will benefit.

*From the May 17th issue of Signal, the newsletter of GZERO Media

Abortion and Religious Rights

There have been a spate of new laws restricting or banning certain kinds of abortion in several states and more are undoubtedly coming. The rationale behind these laws as far as I can understand them is that according to the laws’ sponsors abortion is murder. It is murder because their understanding of the Bible informs them it is. Abortion kills life. These interpretations of the Bible are usually associated with what we loosely call the Religious Right, that is people who view the Bible as the word of God and who believe that it is their duty to make the society conform to their beliefs.  The Religious Right are also people who have been instrumental in implementing  what they call religious freedom laws, for example, laws that mean that a health care practitioner should not be required to perform any action not consistent with their religious beliefs.  Personally I do not object to anyone who holds those beliefs, to anyone who believes that abortion is murder. It is the advantage of living in a country where religious freedom still means something. But I do object of having the religious beliefs of some imposed upon me. What about the religious (or perhaps quasi-religious) freedom of people like me who do not share those beliefs? The body being formed in the womb is the vessel for life, not life itself. I believe that abortion kills the form that contains life—a huge difference, the implication being that that life would have to remain intact. Do these stringent new laws prevent me from the exercise of my own beliefs? The current law allowing abortion does not preclude anyone from exercising their beliefs. No one will have to have an abortion if they believe it to be murder. But the changes now in place in several states infringe upon the rights and beliefs of those of us who like me have a totally different view about abortion.

Access To Justice

About two thirds of the world’s population, 5.1 billion do not have access to justice. Of these, 1.5 billion or one in five, have been left with justice issues they are not able to solve. That could be a land dispute, being the victim of a crime or a consumer debt.  These figures come from a new report issued by The Task Force on Justice. The report indicates that 253 million people live with extreme injustice and are deprived of legal protections. They comprise 40 million modern day slaves, 12 million stateless, 200 million who live in countries which are so insecure seeking any kind of justice is not possible. The report points out not only the advantages of providing justice but also the fact that as a human right along with education and health care, it is actually cheaper. In low income countries, where most of the lack to access to justice exists, it costs $20 per person, universal primary and secondary education $41 and healthcare at least $76.  These figures would certainly increase for the developed world, but the message that providing justice to those who need it is cheaper than we think remains.

It’s so easy to forget that providing justice is part of the infrastructure of security in any country, and that infrastructure is necessary for prosperity, a prosperity which in turn provides citizens with a modicum of quality of life.

Decriminalize Illegal Immigration

California Attorney General, Xavier Becerra joined Democratic presidential candidates Julian Castro and Beto O’Rourke in asking for the decriminalization of illegal immigration. Beccera says that civil penalties are enough that criminal charges demonize people whose only crime is seeking a better life. Castro had earlier made a policy proposal to eliminate the Immigration and Nationality Act Section 1325 which makes unauthorized entry into the country a federal misdemeanor. Section 1326 asks for further penalties for subsequent reentries. Those are the statutes used by the Trump administration to separate families and prosecute migrants. Becerra, Castro, O’Rourke and others who may subscribe to the idea know that it is not likely to succeed with this administration, that at best it is a good campaign slogan. And it does look like it is emerging as a Democratic Party talking point.

It’s an important idea, and although it is unlikely to bring relief to those now at the border, it nevertheless needs to be remembered and talked about so that its future as a reality can be that much sooner.