Argentina prides itself on being a nation of immigrants. In fact, if Argentines were to nab a world record, it would probably be for the shortest time taken to mention this fact: enthusiastically telling you about how their family tree is the picture of biodiversity; home to ancestors from the world over. But these days, immigrants living in Argentina feel their contribution to the country isn’t being valued enough.
Today, they will join the ranks of teachers and unions to hold a protest. Meeting at 4pm opposite Congress, before making their way towards Plaza de Mayo at 6pm, groups of immigrants and their allies will strike to demonstrate just how much we depend on them, and all they contribute to society and the economy. The VAT revenue generated by immigrants alone is estimated to be between 1000 and 1500 million dollars per year.
But it’s not just recognition they’re after. They also want to abolish January’s Emergency Decree 70/2017, which modified Migration Law 25.871, as they believe it infringes on their rights. The decree entails, among other things, speeding up the process for expelling foreigners who commit certain crimes, and will increase the amount of time foreigners are banned from reentering the country after being deported for committing crimes.
Ceriani Cernadas, Director of The Migration and Asylum Program at the Department of human Rights and Lanus University agrees: the first problem with the decree is that it associates immigrants with crime. The decree points to the fact that 33% of drug-related crime is committed by immigrants. It fails to mention that, in the wider statistics, only around 5.6% of all crime in Argentina is committed by immigrants (based on figures from 2002 to the present day).
Furthermore, it is not only relations with the government that needs to be addressed. Juan Vázquez, of Simbiosis Cultural – a Bolivian community group – says that labor unions also need to do more to value the contribution of immigrants. Some only allow immigrants to make up to 25% of its members.
The date, March 30, was chosen to mark the 11th anniversary of a fire in a textile workshop in Caballito, in which 6 Bolivians were killed. The textile industry, alongside brick-making and selling fruits and vegetables, rely on workforces that display high levels of immigrant participation.