Our friends at Cuéntame have launched a new campaign for an “Immigrant Bill of Rights.” As Congress inches closer to some kind of immigration legislation, we’ll see an growing political push to frame the debate in terms of policy and bureaucratese. Framing the policies in the language of one of the nation’s founding documents, and more broadly, the universal declarations that frame international law, we can start to articulate a new conversation centered around not the material business interests, political calculations or lawyerly squabbles over borders and budgets–but rather, around ideas of essential rights.
Here’s the Cuéntame campaign’s list of policy principles:
- End criminalization and arbitrary detentions/deportations.
- End exploitation of immigrant work.
- End separation of families
- Reward education with normalization
- Pathway to naturalization
- Protection of human rights at the border
- Protect immigrants from discriminatory legal practices
- Protect migrant freedom of expression
- Grant access to legal protection
- Address root causes of migration
The campaign asks the question (and invites the public to answer with their own multimedia messages), “Which Immigrant Right Will You Demand?” It’s an intriguing inquiry, but one thing to keep in mind is that we should be working toward a world in which we can stand up for all our rights as a whole paradigm of social justice. We shouldn’t live in a society in which citizenship requires us to choose which right to demand, or worse, in which the state has the power to uphold rights selectively at its discretion, or arbitrarily take them away.
Of course, the flipside of frameworks like the Universal Declaration of Human Rights–or, more specifically, declarations on the social and economic rights of migrants based on international law, which have been advanced by human rights advocates–is that they tend to be largely aspirational. On the other hand, very little gets done in practical terms unless they’re rooted in genuine ideals. Another risk is that activists get tangled in the language and phrasing of the precepts, rather than the underlying principles, which are always evolving as communities grow and diversify.
So what rights are you fighting for today? Yes, any political movement’s struggle does start with a single call to action. But don’t be afraid to keep pushing the boundaries of the possible–and to ask for nothing less than all that justice demands.