Dear immigrant: know your rights

An immigrant is any person who is outside the territory in which he/she has affective, social, or political ties, regardless of his/her migratory status, intention, or temporality. In other words, any person who leaves the territory of which he or she is a national, for any length of time and for any reason, is considered a migrant in the eyes of the international system. Due to the current dynamics and changes brought about by globalization, most people in the world have been immigrants at some point in their lives and, therefore, the international community has been concerned with establishing criteria and obligations for all States with respect to immigrants in their territory.

If you are one of the millions of people who, due to different circumstances, decided to leave your country to face another life, you should know your rights.

No matter what immigration status you are currently in, you should know that there are guarantees that protect you, and there are rights that you can demand. Here, I share with you some principles that the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights has adopted to guarantee respect for the human rights of immigrants, especially those who are in a situation of vulnerability.

Primacy of Human Rights: Since 1945, it has been recognized that all human beings have intrinsic rights that must be respected in all circumstances. These rights include life, access to justice, dignified treatment, and non-discrimination, and they should be at the center of all migration procedures and procedures in each of its phases. Human rights should be the axis on which each country exercises sovereignty in migration issues.

Principle of equality and non-discrimination: Each country has the right to establish its own immigration policies, rules, and practices; it may establish specific requirements for entering and remaining in that country and may expel or deport foreigners. However, the duty is that “all persons are equal before the law”, Therefore, states do have the responsibility to ensure that their limits and criteria on migration issues are objective, reasonable, and proportional to the circumstances. Immigration limitations or norms may not discriminate on the basis of race, religion, sex, or language.

Principle of access to justice and judicial guarantees: It is possible that in immigration proceedings there may be decisions that may result in the imposition of a penalty or sanction, so it is essential that all immigrants know that they have a series of rights in terms of access to justice and guarantees before the judicial system. The rights listed below are not optional and can be claimed by any immigrant if he or she is charged or has been sanctioned:

  • Right to be heard within a reasonable time by an independent and impartial judge or tribunal.
  • Prior, clear and detailed communication about the accusation being made.
  • The right not to testify against oneself or to plead guilty to anything.
  • The right to be assisted by a translator or interpreter.
  • The right to be assisted by a defense attorney of your choice and to communicate freely and privately with him/her, here it is important to make sure to get good legal advice.
  • The right to free legal assistance in immigration matters for indigent persons.

Principle of protection of the lives of immigrants and immediate attention: it is a reality that many times the experiences of immigrants are not the best. In many cases, people must flee their country of origin and face difficult situations in the country where they arrive. This is why states have the responsibility to deploy efforts to protect the lives of immigrants when their lives are at risk. Any kind of inaction or complicity in the violation of the integrity or dignity of immigrants must be avoided.

Any person who leaves the territory of which he or she is a national, for any length of time and for any reason, is considered a migrant in the eyes of the international system.

Ensure that human rights are guaranteed at the border: The immigration regulations of each country must prohibit discriminatory treatment or violations of human rights at the border. Even when migrants have attempted to cross the border irregularly alone or with assistance, human rights must be guaranteed. On the other hand, as already mentioned, states must ensure that the country to which the immigrant will return is not a place where his or her life will be in danger or where he or she will be exposed to any kind of torture. The administrative or judicial authorities must take into consideration the circumstances under which the immigrant arrived in their country and analyze whether returning means a threat to his or her life.

Principle of the best interests of the child and protection of the family unit: The family has the right to protection by society and the State and migrant children must have all available protection for their lives, development, and integrity. Migration authorities should keep this in mind at every stage of any migration process and migrants should know that they have this protection.

Although the principles mentioned here are not the only ones that exist, they are indispensable for migrants to be aware of. Internationally, it has been recognized that there are intrinsic rights that cannot be violated regardless of the migratory condition of a person, therefore, ignorance and misinformation cannot be reasons to allow serious violations of the human rights of those who decided or were forced to emigrate.

If you are currently an immigrant in the United States or you want to migrate to this country, remember to have the correct information, seek the advice of a good immigration lawyer who can guide you in your specific case and help you in the protection of your basic guarantees.












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