The US boycotted the non-binding UN deal over purported concerns it would threaten America's sovereign right to set domestic immigration policy.
UNITED NATIONS – Some 164 countries signed on to a non-binding Global Compact for Migration this week, enshrining some commonly accepted migration policies that are likely to come in handy as ever greater numbers of people leave their home countries behind in search of a better life.
“What we ultimately got out of the text is a floor, not a ceiling.”
Alice Thomas is a program manager for Refugees International.
“It’s the first time you have in one document a 360-degree view of migration and a set of best practices for states working collaboratively to achieve safer, regular, orderly migration.”
Some of the compact’s 23 goals include ending “migration detention unless as a last resort,” eliminating discrimination against migrants and stopping the “allocation of public funding or material support to media outlets that systematically promote intolerance.”
While the compact is clearly and purposefully non-binding, the U.S. boycotted it anyway, and perhaps that’s no surprise. The U.S. has been widely criticized for detaining migrants (even going as far as to separate migrant children from their parents) and President Trump himself has repeatedly turned public sentiment against migrants, even peddling the debunked theory that they pose health risks to the U.S.
Non-binding or not, Thomas hopes one of the compact’s goals to collect more data on migration will ultimately help countries with good migration policy to stand out from the pack.
“To say that best practices are going to drive you to do something that’s going to call you out in some fashion – well yeah, maybe it’s going to mean that you’re not following the best practices for migration. But the whole idea that the international community needs to work together to try to deal with this phenomena.”
That cooperation is urgently needed. According to the U.N., the number of international migrants has increased from around 100 million people 30 years ago to more than 250 million now, and that trend shows little signs of stopping.