Human & Immigrant Rights

What are Human Rights?

The United Nations was formed when the world was fearful of the imminent threat of nuclear war and had witnessed widespread discrimination and genocide during the Nazi Holocaust in the early and mid 1940’s. In response to the overwhelming human rights violations that occurred during WWII, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) on December 10th, 1948.

The United States was instrumental in creating the UDHR, which was largely modeled after the Bill of Rights. In fact, Eleanor Roosevelt was the chair of the Human Rights Commission.

Roosevelt described that commissions work as “put[ting] into words some inherent rights standards towards which the nations must henceforth aim.”

Roosevelt did not expect all countries to implement human rights quickly, but to aspire to them. She remarked that these rights would not be new practices to Americans. With such a central role in creating the UDHR, it is surprising that the United States has failed to sign and ratify many U.N. covenants. Ratifying these covenants would create legally enforceable standards; a system for Americans to file human rights abuses to the state and provide international oversight; and demonstrate leadership to other countries.

There are nine core international human rights treaties.

The United States has ratified:

  • Convention on Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (1966)-U.S. ratified in 1994.

  • International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (1966)-Signed in 1977 and ratified by the Senate in 1992.

  • Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment-Signed in 1988 and ratified in 1994.

However, the United States has signed but not yet ratified:

  • International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (1966)-Only six countries have signed but not yet ratified.

  • Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (1979)-Only seven counties have not ratified.

  • Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989)-Somalia and the U.S. are the only counties that have not ratified.

The United States has not signed:

  • Convention on the Protection of All Migrant Workers and their Families.

  • Convention Against Enforced Disappearance.

  • Convention on the rights of Persons with Disabilities.

How are Human Rights related to the Rights of Immigrants in the U.S?

Human rights are the basic rights and freedoms to which all humans are entitled-whether they are immigrants or not.

The UDHR and two of its subsequent documents-the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights-establish the basic rights of all human beings, egardless of their citizenship or immigration status.

These rights are not conditioned on citizenship. The Constitution grants all people in the United States certain freedoms and protections under U.S. Laws, regardless of whether one is a citizen or non-citizen, documented or undocumented.