Arbitrariness is what migrants are facing every day, all around the world. Not being a citizen means almost everywhere, North and South, not being able to defend your rights, to call a union representative, to hire a lawyer, to access the justice system, to contest decisions made by anyone wielding some power, be it an employer, a landlord, a lawyer, a judge, a police officer, a border guard, a private security guard, or even an ordinary citizen in the street. This is why migrants most often lay low, won’t stick their neck out, and will simply move on when attacked, abused or defrauded. Fighting back isn’t really an option when one risks detection, detention and deportation.
This is readily understandable when one is an “illegal alien”. But this is also often true of migrants with status: a temporary migrant worker with a perfectly valid labour contract doesn’t have the luxury of contesting and being branded a “troublemaker”, as this may mean being fired and deported or being blacklisted in future years. In the article “Dominican Republic Set to Deport Haitian Migrants” by the New York Times, long-term residents without documentation are prevented from accessing a regularisation procedure to which they are entitled, and yet they can find no recourse to fight this arbitrary use of force.
We citizens do not often realise how our status protects us – legally but also psychologically – and gives us the power to mobilise, protest and contest. Our contemporary complex democracies are based on three pillars: representation, human rights and rule of law. Take away any of those and the whole edifice is in danger of collapsing. Migrants experience this every day.