The revelation that about a hundred Indians are incarcerated in two camps of migrants in the US on their border with Mexico brings the American action on illegal immigration, including the insidious practice of forced child separation, means the problem has come home as it were. While the humanitarian crisis of the separation of children is just about being handled by executive action, what the crisis throws up is also the fact that some Indians are willing to do virtually anything, including undertaking treacherous treks to the US border from the Mexican side, to get to the “land of opportunity”. While the Government of India can do little about people’s zeal to find a paradise beyond the country of their birth or residence, at least it can try and control the devious workings of a people trafficking system. It is obvious the adventurous, intending illegal immigrant and his family invariably face the tragic consequences when they are caught.
The issue is bigger than Donald Trump’s history of U-turns on the burning matter of immigration. The US President will cynically exploit the immigration issue because that is what helped him get to the White House. The problem of our people is, however, our own. This is to do with India and how our people are virtually duped into making such attempts after the family manages to cough up the hefty sums demanded by unscrupulous agents running people across frontiers. There could be empathy for Syrians and others fleeing war zones in West Asia and seeking to live in Europe even as the Mexicans eye their northern neighbour as the destination for a better life. Given how insular the world is getting with increasing population load, there can only be less sympathy for economic refugees of the kind that many young people from Punjab potentially are.
Indians may have heard of the hard work of preceding generations of migrants in countries like Canada, the US, Australia and New Zealand and their subsequent prosperity. They had all moved in a different era in which the population profile of well-off countries meant migrant workers were welcomed. Today, only the trained IT professionals, doctors and nurses are in demand abroad and people’s movement into the more prosperous countries are tightly controlled. While awareness campaigns about immigration policies can be attempted to explain the difference between legal and illegal immigration, a lot more has to be done to convince people not to attempt to jump countries. The cynical exploitation of Indians looking for work abroad, be it in the Middle East as workers or in wider avenues, by those in the manpower trade can be reined in only by tight regulation. The point is there is nowhere to turn as Indians are exploiting the vulnerability of Indians.