Paraguayans, Peruvians and Chileans compose a virtual army of
cheap and abundant workforce in the capital of São Paulo.
The draft of the New Foreigner Law that is passing
through the National Congress is extremely selective from the
economic point of view and doesn’t resolve the situation of
the undocumented immigrant workers.
one is illegal no matter where they live”
Bassegio e Roberval Freire*
is estimated that there are today, in the capital of São
Paulo, hundreds of thousands of Latin Americans, 40% of whom
are in irregular situations.
The total population of the city of São Paulo in 2004,
according to the IBGE, was 10.8 million people.
labor is a reality among many of these immigrants.
Despite not being a theme of the novela,
the situation of the undocumented Latin American
immigrants in the city of São Paulo is an extremely painful
times they end up as slaves in textile factories in the
central region of the capital, like Brás, Bom Retiro and
Pari. In São
Paulo, the largest city in the country, Latin American
immigrants in illegal situations are victims of slave labor:
Bolivians, Paraguayans, Peruvians and Chileans make up
a virtual army of cheap and abundant workforce² in the
capital of São Paulo. The origin of this situation is related to the reality of the
countries from which many flee in search of better living and
reports are numerous of people recruited in Bolivia, with
deceptive radio and newspaper advertisements that promise
employment, housing, and pay.
Arriving here, the reality is quite different.
The first six months of work are to pay off the travel
costs to the middleman that brought them (gato
or coyote). Many times the passports are confiscated and there is threat
of being turned over to the police if the immigrant does not
comply with the demands of the middleman.
After three months pass, the tourist visa of the
immigrant expires and he or she becomes an “undocumented”.
“Among these ‘undocumenteds’, there is a fear of making
accusations, fear of the police and punishment.
After the completion of the months for the payment of
travel costs, many flee and face legislation that criminalizes
them but does not recognize the traffic in people.” (Jornal
Presença Latina, 2004)
this exploitation is not a residual fact of the system, but an
intrinsic part of it. The piece of clothing produced in the
sordid trenches of slavery is the same trendy clothing
displayed in the windows of the city’s shopping centers.
The migrant worker, considered clandestine, certainly
is a part of the productive chain of the great brands.
Similar facts occur throughout the world, where the
struggle for competitiveness imposes cuts in cost and,
consequently, in workforce.
one of the cases, in an area adjacent to the factory, eight of
the workers and a six-year-old child partitioned six small,
improvised rooms of 2 square meters, divided by plywood walls.
The others, when the shift is extended, end up sleeping
right there as well. Also,
a kitchen operates there, where the meals offered by the
bosses are made.
It is worth remembering how the immigrant workers who are
undocumented live: what their living and working conditions
are, how they are recruited, deceived and submitted to the
exhausting work regimen.
Among the principal irregularities, the following stand
form in which they are recruited in Bolivia, with deceptive
promises of wages of up to US$500 monthly, when in reality
they do not pass US$100;
-The confinement to which they are subjected in São Paulo:
working several months to pay for their travel and the
impossibility of communication;
-Confiscation of documents and blackmail with threats of
denouncing to the police;
-The long and exhausting work shifts to which they are
subjected, and which many times reach more than 16 hours a
continuous rotation of work places, thus avoiding any type of
organization and eluding the local authorities;
noxious working conditions:
living and working in the same locale, breathing in the
dust from the work area;
of liberty due to the work schedule and the constant
the gravest of all is the impossibility of demanding rights,
whether because of the language difficulty or the fact of
being undocumented and subjected to a foreigner law that is
authoritarian, xenophobic, restrictive and still a machine
that produces ‘undocumenteds’”. (SPM, 2004)
into a corner, they do not usually denounce the bosses.
Many never so much as imagine that they are being
exploited. It is not uncommon to hear them saying that they prefer
working in Brazil to working in Bolivia.
Entire families, in a situation of illegality, accept
working and living in textile factories.
They prefer working up to 17 hours per day over being
unemployed in their country.
recent Brazil-Bolivia agreement of August 2005 for the
regularization of documentation will reach a fraction of the
immigrants because many are of other nationalities and wait
for a new foreigner law.
Moreover, it privileges those that have technical
conditions, liberal professionals, and administrators of
draft of the New Foreigner Law that is passing through the
National Congress is extremely selective from the economic
point of view and fails to solve the situation of the
undocumented immigrant workers.
For this, it suffices to list the diverse privileged
categories that are mentioned in Article 11: “study
(elementary, high school, undergraduate and graduate) (I);
artist and athlete (II); administrator, manager, director,
commercial or civil society executive, economic group or
agglomerate (III); newspaper, magazine, radio, television or
foreign news agency correspondent (IV); religious minister
(V); volunteer, director of non-governmental organization or
of research (VI); marine or technician aboard cargo, tourist
or fishing ship (VII) ( (Vai-vem 100 – 2005).
main problems related to the immigrants refer to Brazilian
Foreigner Law, dated 1980, complicated the documentation
process, denying the immigrants the right to minimal
citizenship that is guaranteed in the 1988 Constitution and in
the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The second article of the Foreigner’s Statute, Estatuto
do Estrangeiro, of 1980 (Law 6.815) established as
priorities national security, the political, socio-economic
and cultural interests of Brazil, as well as the defense of
the Brazilian workers. These
principles, in contrast to those of the Magna Carta, should be
something of the authoritarian past of the country.
However, what one witnesses is the opposite.
Law 6.815 continues to govern the residency of
foreigners in Brazil in a flagrant contradiction to the
defense of the rights of the human person, those guaranteed in
several International Conferences and also by the Brazilian
National Plan for Human Rights.
that do not fit into the demands of the law are, consequently,
interfering in the exercise of their citizenship, denying them
basic rights such as renting property, being registered at a
job, and access to credit. They have difficulty enrolling
their children in school, turning to the justice system in the
case of violation of their rights, and receiving free medical
forced ‘clandestinization’ of the immigrant families in
these 25 years of the Foreigner’s Statute in Brazil
irremediably injured the rights of children and adolescents,
impeding them from studying in public schools.
The Child and Adolescent Statute of 1990 itself, has
been violated because it established the non-discrimination
between Brazilian and foreign children or adolescents,
documented or not.
inefficiency of the document expedition process for foreigners
aggravates the situation of the undocumented because of the
bureaucracy supported in the old law.
This contradicts the Universal Declaration of Human
Rights which in Article 13 says: “Everyone
has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the
borders of each state.”
problem that concerns all is the rising unemployment,
specifically among the more qualified workers, above all those
from the industrial sector.
São Paulo, companies in the textile assembly sector carry out
the work of travel agencies for these immigrants to leave
their countries of origin, using their own countrymen as
agents. Part of
them work and live in the cellars of the textile factories, in
situations of semi-slavery: shifts of up to 16 hours a day,
under the fear of denouncement, which threatens them with
deportation by the Federal Police.
and dispatchers, promising to handle the documentation,
deceive these immigrants, extorting from them the meager
earnings they have managed.
Plaza, coordinator of the Casa do Migrante, in São Paulo, is
one of the immigrants that chose Brazil as his new homeland. When he arrived in the country, in 1984, the Chilean lived
first hand the consequences of all the obstacles of the
Foreigner’s Statute, and since then he has actively
participated in the work promoted by the Brazilian entities
which fight for the immigrants’ cause. In his opinion, it is necessary to quickly regularize the
situation of the immigrants who find themselves in the
country, in order for them not to be considered illegal and
handled as a case for the police.
The idea is also to look at the immigrant question
through the social, economic and political perspective.
people arrive in a new country, they seek alternatives to
realize their dreams. But
the current legislation is obstructive.” He believes that the fundamental point to be studied is the
question of documents, so that the immigrants can have access
to health, education and credit like any other Brazilian
citizen. “It is
necessary that we establish different rules so the immigrant
does not enter the informal sector, end up in the black market
or drug trafficking because of not having conditions to
survive”, believes Juan.
Draft of the New Foreigner Law, of the Ministério
da Justiça, of September 2005, had the merit of the
opening for consulting society, however it is still timid on
several points and brings remnants of the current and former
law. It is
possible that the bigger struggle is stuck in the National
Congress, considered conservative and averse to change.
From “National Security” the new text communicates
a new concept of “workforce selectivity”, as initial
criteria for the admission of the immigrant.
In other words, the market would be the principle for
the Foreigner Law, and the Ministério
do Trabalho, a selection agent.
Integration that we want
migration is a worldwide reality.
The migratory phenomenon presents itself as
contradictory and complex.
Unwanted and “necessary”, the migrants are part of
the logic of forced mobility, imposed by capital, which
excludes, discards, attracts, precariously includes, exploits,
‘massify’ and represses.
Americans themselves cannot circulate freely on their
restrictions, since the military dictatorships, depend on
judicial and bureaucratic apparatus that penalize the migrants
and their families. In
addition to not being able to circulate, unlike financial
capital they cannot exercise the minimum rights of citizenship
or even human rights.
George Martine, one of the conference participants of the
Social Migration Forum that
took place in Porto Alegre in January 2005, the negative
aspects of migration are
related to the “brain drain”;
the difficulties in communication, persecutions, mistreatment
and exploitation. In
the host countries conflicts and tensions occur and only
immigrants are seen as fiscal burden and considered
competitors for local workers”.
these and other reasons, we want an integration:
contemplates the socio-economic, political, and cultural
aspects; that is an integration of solidarity.
In this sense, Mercosul cannot be just an economic and
has a new Foreigner Law: the current one is outdated,
xenophobic and has remnants of the military dictatorship.
A new law, a general amnesty, the right to residency,
right to come and go in the region (not only for financial
capital) and to have these rights recognized in every country
in the region.
that considers the socio-economic, political and cultural
aspects; that is an integration of solidarity.
In this sense, Mercosul cannot be only a commercial and
that has a new Foreigners Law:
the current on is out-of-date, xenophobic and has
vestiges of the military dictatorship.
A new law, general amnesty, the right to residency, the
right to come and go in the region ( not just for financial
capital) and to have these rights recognized in all the
countries of the region are all necessary.
that aims at a Universal Citizenship; The growing
interdependence caused by the current dynamic of globalization
starts to show the convenience and necessity of defining what
has already been named “universal citizenship”.
Emerging more and more is the need for recognizing in
every human being an explicit right of “universal
citizenship”, by the simple and fundamental fact of being a
member of the human family, therefore a participant in the
“human society”, with the right to occupy his or her vital
space and to contribute with his or her presence and action.
“For the migrant, home is the land that gives you
the Social Migration Forum, with the participation of 600
people from 37 countries, the idea of universal citizenship
emerged powerfully. In
the words of Dom Demétrio Valentini, President of the Serviço
Pastoral dos Migrantes “the need emerges more and more to
grant to every human being an explicit right
of “universal citizenship”, for the simple and
fundamental fact of being a member of the human family”.
the other hand, “Whereas
recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and
inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the
foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world”
(DUDH preamble), it suffices, in this moment, to question
whether or not the draft of the New Foreigner Law is in
accordance with this perspective. (Vai-Vem
SPM - Serviço Pastoral dos Migrantes and the Centro Pastoral
dos Migrantes approach the immigrants, aware that their
integration in Brazilian society cannot mean an obligation of
assimilation of the local culture, to the detriment of their
own. Together, they fight for the conquest of their right to exist
legally and for access to dignified living conditions, putting
into practice the much-desired Latin American solidarity.
Luiz Bassegio e Roberval Freire are from the
Secretaria do Serviço Pastoral dos Migrantes