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Human Mobility, the Promise of Development and Political Engagement
The social, cultural and political contexts informing our conference theme

Cumbre 2010 takes place at the very moment when we will be assessing the full impact of the global economic crisis on migrant, Latino and Latin American communities. Looming large will be a political landscape whereby a comprehensive vision for sustainable human development remains to be forged.

While goods, capital and services are free to move with ease, human mobility across national borders is increasingly treated as a crime. In the United States, one Department of Homeland Security program, “Section 287g,” deputizes local police forces to act as immigration agents. Italy’s new immigration law sets up citizen patrols and makes it a crime to aid unauthorized workers. France requires certain nationality groups possess double visas to enter the country. The Dominican Republic entertains a constitutional reform to deny, native-born descendants of unauthorized Haitians, the right to citizenship. The European Union issues a “Return Directive” and the U.S. seeks to speed up deportations. Respect for human and labor rights, regardless of where people reside, is undermined by an increasingly narrow focus on whether people are “legal” or “illegal.”

Much of human mobility today is neither the result of choice, nor conditioned by ‘natural’ advantages or disadvantages that may lie on either side of the origin-destination divide.  People, especially the most disadvantaged, are increasingly forced to either move or cling to precarious jobs or live in impoverished communities as the promise of development fades. Nebraska farmers, Latin American rural dwellers, California farmworkers, unemployed factory workers and children are on the move. Thousands die every year at the reinforced gates of their intended destinations. Highly qualified migrants are joining their low-wage counterparts at increasing rate which deprives many sending communities of critical human capital needed to overcome development gaps. Moreover, the skills and talents of qualified professionals are under-utilized and under-compensated in host countries. 

The promises of development, born largely during the early post-colonial era, remain unfulfilled. Alternative visions lag far behind the speed with which unequal citizenship trends accelerate. Particular ethnic, racial and income groups are disproportionately excluded from health care, education and internationally-guaranteed rights. Large numbers of working poor are subject to state and non-state violence, racism and xenophobia. The psychological and socio-cultural impacts of these phenomena on children, women, men, families and entire nations are understudied and under-addressed. As 2010 unfolds, narratives of hope and inclusion crash head on against shrill voices of hate and exclusion.

Public discussions and media portrayals, especially in the age of twitting, are insufficiently reflective or framed in ways that inhibit our capacity to take simultaneous looks at origins and destinations. Nor do they afford us the space necessary to critically engage with diverse and multiple publics in a collective search for more just and effective societal models.  

Cumbre 2010 affords us even if a small space for these reflective and actively participatory discussions. The summit goes beyond the academic to entertain questions about the kinds of civic and political participation strategies that are required to effect positive change. Accordingly, summit discussions take stock of at least two important developments. The first is the growing presence and visibility of civil society and migrant-led organizations dedicated to address these complex issues in local communities. The second is a growing number of global forums bringing together governments, academics, and civil society at the “supra-national” or transnational level. Some of these bodies are advancing novel agendas for development and migration rooted in principles of equality and the defense of human, labor and civil rights. Latin America and other sending and receiving areas are emerging as a new leaders in this area. Seldom are we given the opportunity to learn about these important and alternative policy-making bodies or how local communities and organizations can partake of, and inform, their initiatives. It is our hope that Cumbre 2010 widens the space so that the private sector, grassroot organizations, policy makers and other stakeholders can actively engage and begin the work of resetting policy agendas from the interior out and from the ground up—not just the other way around.


To be added to the OLLAS Cumbre 2010 mailing list or for additional information please contact
Ms. Barb Ihle, Conference Coordinator at
Or Call: 402-554-3835
(Hablamos Español, Inglés y Portugués)