Overseas Immigration News Roundup: Good and Bad Case Studies

By David North on June 7, 2011

There are probably about 200 separate and distinct national and insular immigration-control systems around the world – and sometimes they make interesting decisions; some laudable, some not. Here are three of them.

The Philippines. This over-populated set of islands has long sent immigrant and non-immigrant workers to other nations – to the U.S., to the Middle East, and to other East Asian nations. The remittances these workers send back are important to the nation's economy, and the government is also aware that some of its people are treated very badly overseas.

As a result, that nation's Bureau of Immigration, besides handling immigration matters, also worries about some of its emigrants. For instance there was this story carried by GMA News, an affiliate of a Filipino television network:

Three Malaysia-bound women believed to be victims of human trafficking were prevented from leaving the Philippines, Bureau of Immigration official said Thursday.

The women were supposed to board M/V Danica Joy, which was off to Sabah in Malaysia . . . according to Immigration Commissioner Ricardo David Jr.

David refused to divulge the names of the three women, citing a provision in the anti-trafficking law prohibiting the public disclosure of victims.

Sabah is the former British North Borneo and is very near to the southern Philippines.

My assumption is that in order to manage such a maneuver the government in Manila needs to have, as the U.S. does not, emigration control.

Mexico. In sharp contrast to the Filipino precedent, where the government sought to protect its people, is this story about Mexico, which sought to help exploit its people working in Canada.

In this case, the person involved was part of a bi-national (Mexico + Canada) program for shipping farmworkers into British Columbia. Victor Robles Velez was expecting to make the trip again this year, but the Mexican Consulate in Vancouver told Mexican authorities back home that Victor was involved with a Canadian union, and Victor was blacklisted.

The consulate, apparently, was more interested in continuing the program, at all costs, rather than in ensuring the rights of its own people.

Years ago, when I was in the U.S. Department of Labor, we knew about, but were powerless to stop, a blacklist maintained by the Jamaican government regarding then-H-2s sent to cut sugarcane in Florida. If a worker displeased his Florida employer, he was fired, shipped back to Jamaica, and never allowed to leave Jamaica for another H-2 job. That certainly discouraged any thoughts of a union. (As nonimmigrant worker programs have proliferated, the nomenclature has grown more complex; such workers are now H-2As.)

Isle of Man. As I noted in an earlier blog immigration restrictions in some of America's islands can be much more vigorous than those found on the Mainland.

The insular mindset can also be found on the Isle of Man, one of those wonderful British governmental oddities, a quasi-independent entity linked to the United Kingdom only through the monarch; it lies between England and Ireland in the Irish Sea and it has its own immigration laws.

Recently, according to the BBC, the authorities in the island's capital, Douglas, have decided that non-European migrant spouses of its citizens must take an English test, even if they want to stay just temporarily on the island.

The U.S., in contrast, has no language requirements for any group of potential immigrants, and only the most modest linguistic requirements for citizenship. The Isle of Man rule applies to all of these categories of admission: "entry clearance, leave to enter, leave to remain, and further leave to remain", according to the BBC. Unfortunately, I cannot explain the nuances of those four levels of admission.

Were the locals to be truly restrictive they would impose their language requirement in Manx, a Gaelic language whose last native speaker died in 1974; in recent years, thanks to island government encouragement, the language is having a bit of a revival.

While the Isle of Man has its own immigration-control laws for new arrivals, a Manx who emigrates is treated like other UK citizens, at least by the U.S.