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Hearing of the United States Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (Helsinki Commission) (As Released by the Helsinki Commission) - Crossing Borders, Keeping Connected: Women, Migration and Development in the Osce Region


Location: Washington, DC

Hearing of the United States Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (Helsinki Commission) (As Released by the Helsinki Commission) - Crossing Borders, Keeping Connected: Women, Migration and Development in the Osce Region


REP. HILDA L. SOLIS (D-CA): I want to thank our chairman and also the staff of OSCE and our witnesses and also my good colleague and friend, Congresswoman Gwen Moore. And I know we'll be visited by other members of the Women's Caucus that have also learned about this issue and want to participate.

I won't read my entire statement either. I'm very anxious to hear what our witnesses have to say. Migration and, for those of us who are domestic here in the states, talk about migration and immigration. And I'm very, very pleased to know that we're going to have some information given to us about some of the positive aspects of migration.

So oftentimes we hear on the news, media, reported about the heavy drain on our society here. We hear that also in Europe. We hear it regarding other third world countries that are sending many of their workers or labor force. Sometimes it's forced upon them because of poverty, economic and political issues. And we want to understand better what that means here for us and our experience here in the United States.

And I do want to say that I'm very interested in hearing of the role that women play -- women immigrants or migrants that come to this country -- and what unique role they play; and the fact that, in some cases, remittances, whether they're sent from men or women here, outnumber the foreign aid that this country sends to many of those countries that send immigrants here to this country.

So I will respectfully submit my testimony also, my statement for the record, Mr. Chairman. And thank you again for this hearing.


REP. SOLIS: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. And I want to thank the members of the Women's Caucus and women who are here on the dais with us, members of Congress; because I think it really does symbolize that we do care very deeply. This is such a complex issue. I think we're almost talking about two different scenarios. One is what's happening with OSCE, European countries and Central Asia, Russia. And then also what our experience is here domestically.

And there are a little different. And I want to touch and try to get your response from that. I know in the E.U. right now, there are some states or countries that have attempted to implement very specific migration. For example in Spain, they will allow women to come in, low-skilled women, with the idea that they'll go back home, because their children don't come with them. So they are on a restricted kind of a plan.

And I want to know if Dr. Orozco or Dr. Martin, you could touch on, you know, what you've learned from that.

There's also this notion about a blue card, which is our equivalent to the H-1B program, which also has other implications. And I would like you to touch base on that.

And then also the issue of remittances, the fact that women -- I believe I saw an article that staff provided to us. It indicated that overwhelmingly, women from Indonesia, who are migrating or come up to Europe have a higher proportion of sending back remittances. And what impact has that had there? Because sometimes we forget to look on the ledger what the positive consequences are of that sending country. And if you could just touch on those items.

And we could start with Dr. Orozco.

MR. OROZCO: Thank you. I think in Western Europe, there is a process right now of experimentation by trial and error on migration policy. And Spain has focused, for example, on a particular experience with bilateral migration relationships with Ecuador.

And there, they have the belief, more than the knowledge and the facts, that there is going to be a process of circular migration that will be short term-based, where migrants will come to Spain, and then they will go back. And they figured that one way to do that is by establishing a type of specialized agreement.

I think the evidence shows that the situation is more relative. Migrants in general, regardless of where you're from and where you're going, live on their, what we call, the illusion of impermanence. We all, once you leave your country, you say you're going back tomorrow. But circumstances definitely changes those dynamics, those expectations. And as Susan said, you know, if you have family, you are less likely to return back home.

The Western Europe countries are focusing a lot on this issue of circular migration. And they believe that this is, you know, the equivalence of a guest worker program European style; may have positive implications. And I think it will have positive effects among some, especially developing countries in Europe. But it will also have adverse effects on other migrants that are in high demand -- for example, Asians and Africans -- but are less prepared for other reasons than migration itself.

Race is one of them. There is definitely a -- not an open, but a passive preference for, for example, Hispanic migrants, migrants from Latin America than migrants from Africa. So, you know, we cannot neglect those issues.

When it comes to remittance and gender, there is definitely the case that, depending on where women enter into the labor force, they will be more likely to remit more or less money. For example, Asian women working in the hospitality industry, either as caretakers or in the entertainment industry, are going to be of a higher percentage.

An example is the Dominican women in Switzerland. There are about 60,000 Dominicans in Switzerland. Three-quarters of them are females. And, you know, we don't like to talk about what they do, because you come with normative moral value judgment. But the fact of the matter is that they are there responding to a lower market of entertainment. Many Swiss tourists came to the Dominican Republic. They fell in love with the women. And then we have 60,000 women there.

So in that case, you see higher percent of women remitting. But in other places -- for example, we'll see it in the Netherlands -- African women, Ghanians, remit less than their male counterparts. And that's because their access to employment is lower. They are on welfare. The welfare state inhibits you from remitting, because you have lower earnings. So there are variations depending on where you are.

MS. MARTIN: If I could add, I'm personally very skeptical of large-scale temporary work programs as a solution for a number of reasons. When people are admitted for a temporary purpose into a permanent job, it usually doesn't work. The employer wants the person to remain, once they're trained and operating well. The migrant begins to develop equities, want to stay within the country, develop ties, things of that sort.

I think very targeted programs, seasonal programs, can work, because the term of employment is short-term. The type of employment which has a particular cycle -- you know, an 18-month development cycle for a product might work on that. But when you start to rely on temporary worker programs to deal with permanent shortages in your labor market, I think you're in for a recipe for disaster.

To me, what has been the best thing about American immigration over the years is that we have tended to admit people for permanent residence with the idea that they're going to become members of our society. That expectation historically has been from the start. Historically, that a quarter have returned home. That happens. It's their choice. And sometimes it's because they've succeeded. Sometimes it's because they failed on that.

But we organized our immigration program, or we have in the past, around integration of immigrants, around the expectation that they will stay and become Americans. I think we're moving off of that paradigm. I think the high level of mistolerance for illegal migration is undermining that concept. And I think that too great a reliance on temporary worker programs, when people eventually stay in large numbers, means that you're delaying the process of integration. And I think for us as a country, there are some real dangers in doing that.

REP. SOLIS: (Inaudible) -- wanted to ask about remittances. I know we didn't touch too much on it. But I know in, for example, Latin America, there are groups here in the states that will send monies back to, say, Mexico or different parts of Latin America. And they set up different programs for health care, for acquisition of property or capital outlay. They purchase buildings and build hospitals and clinics.

And I'd like to know what pattern there is in the OSCE states that participate or countries, and if you could elaborate on that.


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