Migrant Rights are Human Rights

November 09, 2018


Migrants and asylum seekers are protected by international human rights, refugee, and humanitarian law. We believe that all people should be treated with dignity and respect, no matter what their country of citizenship, their country of residence, their legal status, ethnicity, or their economic conditions. International human rights law was created to protect the most vulnerable populations, and the United States has a moral and legal obligation to uphold those standards and to treat with dignity any human beings fleeing conditions of violence and economic injustice.

The Central American migrant caravan consisting of a group of 160 people, set off on October 12th from the Honduran city of San Pedro Sula. The caravan is estimated to have between five to seven thousand people who have joined along the way. These people are fleeing persecution, poverty and violence in their home countries of Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador, countries whose populations include high numbers of Indigenous Peoples. Indigenous Peoples in Central America disproportionately experience extreme poverty and marginalization, and make up a large majority of those who choose to migrate. Among the asylum seekers are: Indigenous women and children escaping domestic violence, teens fleeing gang violence and recruitment, human rights defenders fleeing persecution from oppressive governments. There is a legal obligation to hear asylum claims from people who arrive at the US border if they claim they are fleeing persecution and violence in their home countries, and under international law, these migrants are considered refugees.

We deplore the Trump administration’s dehumanizing and disparaging language categorizing people who are migrating as drug dealers, rapists, murderers, and animals, and denounce the Trump administration’s decision to treat migrants as criminals and meet them with military force.

The Trump administration announced that they would send a total of 7,000 troops to the border with Mexico to meet the caravan. This excessive show of force belies the fact that the group of people headed towards the US is not a military invasion, but a humanitarian attempt to secure rights to live a life with dignity.

Human rights go beyond politics, as they are universal and recognize the inherent dignity and equality of all human beings. They are universal, interdependent, and inalienable. We all have a moral obligation to uphold human rights for everyone, especially vulnerable populations. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is a reminder of rights and responsibilities that we all have.

As citizens, we can hold governments accountable for their obligations to respect, protect, and fulfill human rights. The duty to fulfill human rights extends equally to individuals, organizations, corporations, government, and all other institutions.

Article 1 of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights states: “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.”

Article 14 states:“(1) Everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution.

(2) This right may not be invoked in the case of prosecutions genuinely arising from non-political crimes or from acts contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations.”

Article 25 states:

“Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.”

We ask that you continue to put political pressure on political leaders to end the human rights abuses, and the unjust and inhumane policies and practices towards undocumented migrants.

(Photo credit: George Martell/The Pilot Media Group)