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International Migrants Day: Protecting the Rights of All
By: Maria M. Odom*
On December 4, 2000, the United Nations (UN) General Assembly proclaimed December 18 International Migrants Day. This day began as a commemoration of the ten-year anniversary of the adoption of the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families. Today, ten years after the proclamation, and twenty years since the adoption of the Convention, it is important to reflect on the need to protect the rights of all migrants.
In their pastoral letter, “Strangers No Longer: Together on the Journey of Hope,” the Catholic Bishops of the United States and Mexico express the great need for respect for the human dignity and human rights of undocumented migrants. They state:
Regardless of their legal status, migrants, like all persons, possess inherent human dignity that should be respected. Often they are subject to punitive laws and harsh treatment from enforcement officers from both receiving and transit countries. Government policies that respect the basic human rights of the undocumented are necessary.
Additionally, it is important to note that in an ideal situation, migration would occur out of choice and not necessity. People should have the opportunity in their homelands to live meaningful and successful lives. However, in many cases families migrate out of the need to find a better life. Parents leave their children behind to find work in order to support them; others bring their children with them leaving these youth with no country to call home; and still others flee to escape persecution because of their religious or political beliefs. It is important that all nations come together to address the many root causes of international migration.
For those member states who have ratified and signed on to the convention, (which no Western state, including the U.S., has), they did so:
Considering the situation of vulnerability in which migrant workers and members of their families frequently find themselves owing, among other things, to their absence from their State of origin and to the difficulties they may encounter arising from their presence in the State of employment.
CLINIC remains committed to advocating for humane and just immigration policy that protects the rights of migrants. Through a nationwide network of almost 200 immigrant service providers, CLINIC and its affiliate agencies represent low-income immigrants without reference to their race, religion, gender, ethnic group, or other distinguishing characteristics. CLINIC looks forward to a time when migrants are no longer seen as “the other,” but live in harmony with the communities they have come to call home.
*Maria M. Odom is the Executive Director of the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. (CLINIC)
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