CARTAGENA, Colombia – The foreign ministers of Central America, Mexico, Ecuador, the Dominican Republic and Colombia met here Monday to try to establish a common stance to mitigate the impact of changes to U.S. immigration policy currently being studied by the U.S. Senate.
Colombian Foreign Minister Carolina Barco – the host of the meeting – said that it is “fundamental” for the United States to understand the labor and contributions of Latin American immigrants in that country’s economic and cultural sectors. She added that all the countries represented at the meeting have emigrants in the United States.
Barco, whose country is one of a dwindling number of staunch allies of Washington in a region tending leftward, said that “the concern that exists in the United States over the issue of security” after the Sept. 11 terrorists attacks that killed thousands can be understood.
But she added that the issue of security and terrorism should not “dominate and (overwhelm) the benefits created in that country by many hordes of emigrants.”
The representatives of the 11 participating countries also are seeking to lessen the impact on the region of the immigration policy changes being considered for approval in the U.S. Congress.
Some of the nations taking part, such as El Salvador and Mexico, receive billions of dollars in hard currency remittances every year from their millions of emigrants working in the United States (NT, Feb. 10).
Some sources have said that about 15 million emigrants from the countries represented at the Cartagena conference live and work in the United States.
The countries at the conference are seeking a united stance to convince U.S. lawmakers that foreign immigrants must not be considered terrorists or criminals, and they are pushing for the strengthening of laws against migrant smuggling within their own countries.
The Cartagena meeting is the continuation of an earlier conference held on Jan. 9 in Mexico (NT, Jan. 13).
Although the foreign ministers said they recognize that building a 1,100-kilometer wall along the U.S.-Mexican border to keep out undocumented immigrants is a sovereign decision that can be taken by the United States, they added that they were confident the measure would never be implemented.
The proposed project includes a high wall with floodlights and security cameras mounted on it to detect migrants who might try to enter the United States illegally.
The House of Representatives has already approved the measure and it is currently under study in the Senate, but Mexico and the countries of Central America, all of which have relatively large migrant populations in the United States, have broadly criticized the project.
The foreign ministers and other officials attending the conference are part of a technical working group attempting to ensure that the human rights of their emigrants are preserved and that their citizens are not exploited abroad.