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Ex Braceros Defend Their Own Workers' Rights in Immigration Reform and in the International Debate on Migrant Indigenous Workers' Rights at the UN

Posted on: Thursday, April 22, 2010

Keywords: Indigenous Rights

*The following is a press release from La Alianza de Ex-Braceros del Norte 1942-64.

Statement to be read on April 22, 2010 3pm-6pm at UN General Assembly Room
Speakers available from 6-8 pm Thursday, April 22, 2010 and 8-12 noon Friday, April 23, 2010

Nicolas Martinez, Ex-Bracero, Nahuatl
Rosa Martha Zarate, Coordinador of
La Alianza de Ex-Braceros del Norte 1942-64
Rosalee Gonzalez, La Red Xicana Indígena-Member, ENLACE Continental Network of Indigenous Women of the Americas (North)

Contact: Rosa Martha Zarate 909-202-3932 (cell)

April 22, 2010—New York, NY—As the current session of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues progresses, the Alliance for Ex-Braceros of the North 1942-64 calls for new attention to Braceros rights.  Braceros (labor and migrant indigenous worker) rights violations in the past represent a cause for grave concern regarding the introduction of a proposed similar program in the current 2010 immigration reform debate at the national level in the United States.  

The Alliance for Ex-Braceros of the North 1942-64 (La Alianza de Ex-Braceros del Norte 1942-64) speaks on the violations, trials, and tribulations experienced by almost 2.5 million still uncompensated guest workers who contributed their labor to support the U.S. during the World War II efforts and during the time of the Mexican Avila Camacho administration.

The 1942-64 historic fraud in the billions of dollars committed against these now elderly workers is a living testimony to the past and continuing inhumane conditions to which these workers were subjected.  We insist that this shameful agreement between these two nations be fully reviewed and that new temporary workers hired as labor by transnational countries are not abused in the process of globalization.  Both the U.S. and Mexico failed to protect workers’ rights and to date have not rectified their behavior.  The Ex-Braceros demand the disclosure of documentation to aid in the recovery of funds, including interest, set aside for these workers.
We offer the following as recommendations to the UN Permanent Forum (UNPFII), UN Agencies and Member States.  Representatives listed above are available to provide additional commentary to the media regarding these issues:

1. Drawing from the International Organization on Migration (IOM) 2007 Report to the Permanent Forum, which notes the importance of “Realiz[ing] the intrinsic relationship between Indigenous Peoples (IPs) and their territories and lands, IOM can offer its assistance through our claims programs, offering expertise in property restitution and compensation programmes,” we recommend to IOM, ILO-International Labor Organization and Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Migrants to extend its attention and resources to the aforementioned claims by Ex-Braceros and widows—specifically in assisting to make accessible and transparent all legal documents between Mexico and the U.S. which are relevant to the Bracero contracts, (i.e., worker lists and dollar amounts collected from each worker) as a means towards resolving this historic injustice.

2. Drawing from the recommendation by the GIWC 2010, the statement by Unrepresented and Unrecognized Indigenous Peoples 2009, and "The State of the World’s Indigenous Peoples" UNPFII 2009 Report, Chapter 8 on Emerging Issues, which emphasizes that “one of the most significant threats faced by indigenous peoples arises from their displacement, eviction and separation from their lands, territories and resources,” we recommend to the PF, Member States and UN Agencies to broaden the utility of the concept of “development with cultural identity” to consider the effects of IPs not on their territories, such as migrant and urban indigenous peoples.

3. We recommend to the UNPFII the inclusion of an item on unrepresented and/or unrecognized indigenous peoples, including migrant indigenous workers, in its 2011 agenda.

4. As highlighted in the report on Future Work for the UNPFII, we urge the UNPF to create a Task Force on Unrepresented and/or Unrecognized indigenous peoples, inclusive of migrant indigenous peoples.

5. We request of the PF to appoint or designate a Rapporteur to undertake a study on the conditions of unrepresented and unrecognized indigenous peoples, including but not limited to migrant peoples and their families born outside of their traditional territories.

6. We draw attention to current efforts by the United States to reform its immigration policies and recommend to the PF to recommend to the U.S. and all receiving countries of indigenous migrant workers, consideration of  the Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (DRIP) Article 19, regarding consultation on policies that may directly impact Indigenous Peoples. We recommend to the U.S. in particular the following 7 points as the minimum standards for guiding immigration policy:
•    Adopt economic policies consistent with human rights, trade justice, and the Declaration of  the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
•    Protect all workers’ labor rights, including migrant indigenous peoples
•    Create a clear, workable path to residency for migrant indigenous peoples
•    Respect indigenous migrants’ civil, human and indigenous peoples rights
•    Demilitarize the U.S.-Mexico border
•    Support migrant indigenous peoples’ family reunification
•    Ensure indigenous migrant workers access to education and social services
•    Create clear means by which indigenous peoples and their families/children can retain their culture, language and spiritual practices while in forced migration from their homelands due to corporate, military, or economic incursion.

In closing, as survivors of the brutal state violence of Operation Wetback (US immigration policy of mass deportation in 1954), we stand in solidarity with the youth and valient pro-migration leaders who have demanded for the Obama Administration to intervene in the potentially quasi-police state via the unjust and racist SB 1070 bill in Arizona.   We say “Ya Basta” (enough is enough) with the police enforced and legal persecusions of migrant indigenous workers in the U.S.

For more information about the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, visit

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