Defeat of US Candidate to lead IOM reflects international rejection of Trump’s immigration policies

Chicago—June 29, 2018—The Trump Administration’s nominee to head the International Organization for Migration (IOM) was soundly defeated today in a vote by IOM’s 171-member states. Isaacs lost in two rounds of voting for the Director General (DG) position to Antonio Vitorino, the Portuguese candidate. Laura Thompson, IOM’s current Deputy General, had been nominated by Costa Rica. Vitorino was proclaimed the victor after it became clear that he was supported by a larger number of States. Reacting to the election results, Catherine Tactaquin, Executive Director of the National Network of Immigrant and Refugee Rights (NNIRR), and Oscar Chacón, Executive Director of Alianza Americas, have issued the following statements:

“NNIRR was proud to join Alianza Americas and dozens of other civil society, human rights, and immigrant-serving organizations in raising an unequivocal rejection of Ken Isaacs’ candidacy. Our concerns stemmed not only from his lack of political experience, but also from his troubling views—his disparaging remarks about Muslims, denial of climate change as a migration driver, and preference for the resettlement of ‘Christian refugees’ in the US—that made him a wholly unfit candidate to lead a UN agency that has a major role to play in the promotion and protection of the human rights of migrants,” said Tactaquin. “This vote also reflects the concerns of other countries about the US government’s extremist views and inhumane approach to addressing migration, especially against the humanitarian crisis unfolding along the US-Mexico border.”

“The US dropped out of negotiations around the Global Compact for Migration last December, reflecting the Trump Administration’s rejection of multilateralism and increasing isolation from the international community’s dialogue on global migration and human rights. Six months later, the US’ desire to lead the IOM raised eyebrows across the globe. The United States’ inconsistency around this issue is almost as concerning as its horrific track record on migration policy,” said Chacón. “The Ken Isaacs’ defeat sends an important message to the Trump Administration. During the course of an aggressive campaign promoting Isaacs, the US did not shy away from reminding states that it was a major funder of the IOM. It is clear that growing outrage about the US’ xenophobic rhetoric and punitive actions outweighed any concerns around its fiscal threats. The international community must remain committed to a forward-looking and human rights-centered approach to global migration, not one that focuses on punitive measures that criminalizes and traumatizes migrants and families.”

The National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (NNIRR) serves as a hub for human rights advocacy and education among diverse U.S. communities on immigration policy. NNIRR works with global partners to address the drivers of migration and to support humane, rights-based migration policies and practices towards healthy, safe and peaceful lives for all.

Alianza Americas is a network of 50 immigrant-led organizations representing more than 100,000 families across the United States. It is the only US-based organization rooted in Latino and Caribbean immigrant communities that works transnationally to create an inclusive, equitable, and sustainable way of life. Learn more at


Alianza Americas & NNIRR