This paper challenges the assumption within international development programming that regular and orderly migration is also safer for migrants. Based on data collected from Cambodian, Burmese, Laotian, and Vietnamese labor migrants recently returned from Thailand, this paper illustrates the limits of regular migration to provide meaningfully “safer” experiences. It observes that migrant workers who move through legal channels do not systematically experience better outcomes. While regular migrants report better pay and working conditions than irregular migrants, they also systematically report working conditions that do not meet legal standards, and routinely experience contract substitution. Regular migrants also have a higher likelihood of experiencing exploitation, contract breaches, harassment, abuse, and involuntary return. These findings challenge mainstream development discourses seeking to promote safer migration experiences through expanding migration infrastructure. The paper recommends: 1) re-examining the conflation of “safe” with “regular and orderly” migration and advocating for practices that increase migrant safety, 2) focusing on broadening rights offered to migrant workers, and 3) strengthening and expanding oversight of labor standards and migrant regulations.
This paper examines the characteristics of deportees from the United States and the effects of deportation on deportees, their families, and their communities. It analyzes the findings from 133 interviews with deportees at a migrant shelter in Sonora, Mexico and interviews with family members of deportees and others affected by deportation in three Catholic parishes in the United States. These findings include: 1) the deportees had established long and deep ties in the United States, including strong economic and family ties, 2) deportation severed these ties and impoverished and divided affected families, 3) most deportees planned to return to the United States, and 4) the US deportation system treated deportees as criminals and the Trump administration sought to instill fear in immigrant communities. The paper concludes with policy recommendations to mitigate the ill effects of the administration’s policies and promote the integrity of families and communities, including: using detention as a “last resort”; reducing funding to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE); and limiting collaboration between police and ICE and Customs and Border Protection.