US Pull Out from Global Compact on Migration Process Disrespects Migrants and Undermines International Community Responsibilities

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In withdrawing from the United Nations process to forge a new Global Compact on Migration, the Trump Administration once more used "America First" rhetoric to defy multilateral approaches to address the short and long term challenges of global migration. While not surprising, the decision on the eve of a global "stocktaking" in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, undermines a process that has been underway for almost a year. (A compact on refugees is also being developed; to date there is no word on the US role in that process.)

US civil society representatives now in Puerta Vallarta responded to the pull out in a joint statement (here in English and in Spanish): "...we call on the United States to recommit to the multilateral process. Migration is a global phenomenon which requires a global response. The United States is not immune from the global forces of conflict, economic coercion, and climate change that drive human migration." 

"Instead of working with the international community to fashion human rights-based responses to global migration, the Trump Administration has chosen to bow to the voices of anti-immigrant groups in the United States. This comes in the context of multiple policy decisions by the US that are anti-immigrant and seek to undermine the human rights of migrants."

As one of the US-based organizations active in the Global Compact process and participating in the Puerto Vallarta stocktaking, NNIRR will continue its efforts to promote human rights-centered proposals to address the current crises faced by many global migrants, and to address the "drivers" of migration, particularly forced migration, so that migration is a "choice" and not a "necessity".

NNIRR was a co-organizer of a recent "US-Canada Regional Civil Society Consultation" in Washington, DC, and had met with members of the US State Department team participating in the consultative phase of the Global Compact's development. As with consultations in other global regions, participants from the US and Canada spotlighted similar concerns: the need for regularization programs, greater access to legal pathways, an end to "circular" migration or temporary worker programs that undermined labor rights and protections, an end to administrative detention of migrants, and more. Civil society partners have voiced concerns with states' reference to "returns"--particularly forced returns and deportations--as a "resolution" to irregular migration.

In the Dec. 2 announcement, UN Ambassador Nikki Haley stated, “America is proud of our immigrant heritage and our long-standing moral leadership in providing support to migrant and refugee populations across the globe. No country has done more than the United States, and our generosity will continue. But our decisions on immigration policies must always be made by Americans and Americans alone. We will decide how best to control our borders and who will be allowed to enter our country. The global approach in the New York Declaration is simply not compatible with U.S. sovereignty.” (The New York Declaration is the September 2016 UN General Assembly resolution that set the compact process in motion.)

Apart from the obvious hypocrisy in this statement, Haley wrongly implies that the UN process would somehow "dictate" policies for the U.S., although as an ambassador she would know that the Compact is likely to be non-binding and that at any rate, such a broad UN framework needs to be realized in national legislation. Many have viewed the continued pronouncements by the U.S. about its national sovereignty rights as a way of undermining commitments to human rights and multilateralism.

With the US government exit, NNIRR and other US civil society partners are even more strongly committed to working with global allies to promote an effective, rights-based Compact and and to bringing the experience and voices of the diverse immigrant populations to this important opportunity. The Global Compact on Migration is expected to be finalized and adopted in December 2018.