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National “Day Without Immigrants”: Connecting Foreign Policy to Immigration Policy

May 2006

Today, immigrants and their allies will be participating in a national “Day Without Immigrants” to bring attention to the millions of immigrants in the U.S. that support the national economy. They will rally, spend no money and wear white to demonstrate their support of immigrants’ rights and discontent with proposed U.S. immigrant legislation.

Even corporate agribusiness is taking notice: Perdue, Gallo Wines, Tyson Foods and Cargill are closing production facilities so that workers can participate in the days’ activities.

Why would agribusiness be so supportive? The statistics speak for themselves: Eight-one percent of all U.S. agricultural workers are foreign-born; 77 percent come from Mexico.

Grassroots International believes that the current debate on U.S. immigration policy cannot be separated from U.S. foreign policy. International trade agreements like the North American Free Trade Agreement have destroyed the viability of rural peoples to sustain their livelihoods in their home country.

At a recent forum that Grassroots convened, Carlos Marentes, director of the Border Agricultural Workers Project, explained, “Immigrants come for one reason: North American agricultural policies have destroyed rural communities South of the border.” He stressed that the importation of overproduced U.S. commodities like corn to Mexico results in the continual creation of a “pool of desperate workers, willing to do anything, suffer exposure to pesticides, discrimination, because they want to survive.”

Through our grant making, education and advocacy work with the Via Campesina, an international movement of family farmers, agricultural workers, fisher folk and women’s and indigenous’ organizations, Grassroots is committed to the most basic human rights–the right to food, water and resources for sustainable livelihoods.

Immigrants’ and workers’ rights are crucial to achieving universal human rights: without food, without land for food production and without the resources to survive, families will cross their national borders for economic opportunities. The International Convention for the Protection of the Rights of Migrant Workers and their Families offers a basis for national immigration policies that recognize these human rights.

Via Campesina members like the Border Agricultural Workers are leading rallies and actions today that connect international trade policy, human rights and national treatment of immigrants.

At Grassroots we will wear white today, participate in rallies and marches, including with our Mexican partners in Mexico. We stand in solidarity with the Via Campesina and all of the immigrants, migrant workers and their families that risk their lives for a better future and universal human rights.

Click here to learn more about the Via Campesina’s Day Without Immigrants activities.

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