The virtual discussion will analyze how selective hyper-nationalism causes a lack of social protection for certain populations, specifically of irregularized migrants, whether they are residents of a national territory or emigrated nationals residing abroad. It will also reflect on the exceptional measures identified across the Americas, particularly on the role that local governments play in guaranteeing social and economic rights for mobile populations, whether they irregularized migrants and/or asylum seekers.
Historically, great majority of countries across the Americas are simultaneously senders and recipients of transnational flows. However, during the pandemic, others countries have turned into spaces of transit and of voluntarily and/or enforced return, and implemented state measures to provide social, and labor protections have been predominately been reserved for the country’s citizens. Countries providing economic incentives to help workers, have been designed to provide support specifically to national workers or certain regularized residents. A large number of irregularized migrants, asylum seekers, or refugees living in the Americas are excluded from such state support. There have been no social protection measures implemented for emigrated nationals residing abroad, even for countries with a long history of migration and have been dependent on the circulation of remittances. Hence, these policies are hyper-nationalist but selective measures, designed only for certain categories of citizens, mainly those residing within the national territory.
Few central governments have deliberately included mobile populations as beneficiaries of these protective measures. Mexico has established mechanisms to support the repatriation of Mexican migrants who have died abroad as a result of the pandemic. Argentina adopted measures to provide health care and financial assistance to nationals living abroad who lost their jobs. Colombia implemented the virtual platform, “Cuéntanos Cómo Estás” (Tell Us How You Are), for Columbians living abroad to provide an account of their living conditions during the pandemic.
There are also cases of governments that implemented protective measures for irregularized migrants. In Costa Rica, the central government argued that health care was a universal right without distinction as to nationality or immigration status. Colombia’s government spoke out against housing evictions, particularly of Venezuelans who cannot afford to pay rent. Despite it’s far-right government, Brazil took the most notable measure by implementing an Emergency Aid program, which provides a three-month payment of 600 reais (110 USD) for both its citizens and irregularized migrants.
A few local governments have also instituted these exceptional measures. The state of California (United States) established an economic benefit program for irregularized migrants, while the municipality of Iquique and Colchane in Chile have implemented support programs for Bolivian migrants. Matamoros delivered cleaning supplies and food to the refugee camp set up in that town. Such actions reveal the potential role that local governments can play as guarantors of social and economic rights in contrast to hyper-nationalist and exclusionary measures.