Brian Taylor

Immigration Politics
Rights and Liberties of U.S. Migrants: Marginalizing of People

Migrants in the United States, both legal and undocumented, are having their basic human rights
and liberties withheld due to lack of understanding of their rights or law enforcement stepping
over their boundaries. In the case Hoffman Plastic Compounds v. National Labor Relations
Board the ruling held that, “undocumented workers who had been fired for union organizing
activities were violating provisions of the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA)
and were not legally entitled to all protections available to legally documented workers under the

National Labor Relations Act”. Although this case pertains to undocumented workers and
migrants, documented workers and migrants face difficulties as well. The rest of this paper will
focus on two cases, the El Cenizo case and detained women migrants case, to illustrate these
discriminatory and sometimes inhumane actions directed toward migrants. Additionally, the
paper intends to increase awareness of these injustices and correct these problems through policy
by citing specific examples.
El Cenizo, located on the border of Southwestern Texas, is home to U.S. citizens and
migrants alike. With a population of approximately 3,300, this small town had been considered a
safe place for migrants to make their home. For many years however, “residents lived without
water, wastewater infrastructure, and paved roads”. The lack of supplies and services in El
Cenizo are because many of its citizens fall between the cracks. Several citizens have crossed
over the border of Mexico. Many others have overstayed their period of time to be permitted in
the United States. Despite the lack of water and sanitation, El Cenizo citizens maintained their
way of living. Due to the economy, the recent crackdown on migrants by local border patrol
(U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement; or ICE) has made these subpar living conditions
more unbearable. On a highway leading to and from Laredo, Texas, a “checkpoint arose near the
2

town (El Cenizo) in the southbound lane” .Why would ICE be stopping people travelling South
to El Cenizo? This seems to be targeting the poorer, darker skinned citizens living in the town. If
these law enforcement agencies were following their job descriptions, it would make sense that
they would stop people travelling north into the United States, not south. These checkpoints held
up traffic substantially. According to Angela C. Stuesse, author of the article Challenging the
border patrol, human rights and persistent inequalities: An ethnography of struggle in South
Texas, said that these temporary detentions last anywhere from “20 - 45 minutes” and resulted in

“some people being fired from their jobs”2. In addition to those being fired, several citizens
moved elsewhere to live in areas with less concentration of law enforcement. The checkpoints on
the highway leading to the firing of several United States citizens appears to be the beginning of
police and federal agencies overstepping what is necessary and using their own discretion when
pursuing undocumented migrants. However, this isn’t the biggest issue in the town of El Cenizo.
The most difficult problem at hand, according to Stuesse, is “many people in El Cenizo didn’t
understand their rights”2. These citizens, both documented and undocumented, wasn’t able to
access the outside help that is afforded to them through either United States law, international
law, or immigration reform advocacy groups. The roadblock, intimidation, and other abuses of
power by ICE officials are not going unnoticed. Stuesse believes that the injustices put the
“United States border patrol in grave danger of violating provisions of international human rights
laws”2.
Upon being apprehended by law enforcement, undocumented migrants encounter
inhumane conditions. Research has suggested that there are almost “30,000 people in the United
States currently held in administrative detention for alleged violations of immigration law”.
Migrants can spend anywhere between 2-6 months in these facilities awaiting their trail. While
making up a relatively small number of detainees when compared with males, women face
extreme difficulties and harsh conditions. The most obvious violation of their rights is receiving
proper health care. In the article Inadequate health care for migrants in the USA, the author cites
a report that describes instances where women were “being forced to work to earn sufficient
sanitary supplies for their menstrual cycles” and another report of “a woman being denied
treatment for an ovarian cyst because her records had not been transferred between facilities
when she was moved”3. Ignoring these health issues is degrading to these women. Additionally,

it is a health hazard to these women and other detainees as well. Despite these specific occasions,
the issue does not stop there. Migrants are grouped together as a race. Databases are compiled
linking diseases or complications that are prevalent in different races. However, these databases
are unable to capture the breadth of the issue. When gathering the information, “authorities rarely
differentiate from American born citizens and foreign born citizens”3. For example, these studies
rarely differentiate black Americans from black citizens born in African countries. It seems
unlikely that both of these groups faced the same health issues and struggles during their time in
their respective countries. Thus, diagnoses are often over generalized and miss the area of illness
that the medical professionals should be targeting. As a result, these pre-conceived notions have
little to no effect in curing illnesses. This has a profound impact on migrants entering the United
States. Often, health officials do not know the history of their patients, especially if they are
undocumented migrants. Despite not being afforded rights of a United States citizen, these
individuals should still be granted basic human rights, some of which include “rejection of
arbitrary arrest and detention and cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment”.3
As a well-developed country, the United States must do more to correct these issues that
migrants face. The United States is one of “the wealthiest and most powerful countries in the
world and has not ratified a single human rights treaty”. To hold those more accountable, we
must also “become more transparent and continue monitoring standards for migrants”3. First,
while there are a multitude of solutions, I propose implementing policies that help both migrant
and undocumented migrants. An example of legislation that is already in place that we should
further expand are “T visas” and “U visas”. According to Gabriela Wasileski and Mark J. Miller,
co-authors of Abused Migrant Women in the United States: Progress, Challenges and
Recommendations, the T visa “provides legal status for up to 5,000 victims of trafficking” and

the U visa “provides legal status for up to 10,000 victims of interpersonal violence, rape,
trafficking, involuntary servitude, sexual assault, torture, etc.” These policies are great beginning
points for providing rights to migrants. Both visas “provide temporary (non-immigrant status and
work authorization to the victims and certain members of their families, and opportunities to
obtain permanent residency status (green cards) after some period of time and under strictly
defined conditions”5. However, there are pitfalls that either hurt or hinder these rights of
migrants in the United States. If the crime is not reported to authorities and allegations are not
recognized by the courts, the migrants “lack the eligibility necessary for U-visa relief and face
the possibility of deportation from the United States”5. Thus, those undocumented migrants who
are afraid to approach law enforcement fall through the cracks, continue to face hardships, and
remain in the margins of society. By minimizing the possibility of penalty, deportation, or both,
migrants are more likely to approach authorities when injustices happen. As a country, our local,
state, and national representatives could draft bills that are less vague and that have a clear
definition and purpose. In return, migrants will be afforded their human rights and law
enforcement have their discretionary power checked. Accompanying well-defined law in the
United States, the U.S. should hold those in positions of power accountable for any unfair
treatment of migrants. Protection that is currently offered by the United States “can often be
overlooked by law enforcement agencies”5. To remedy this, these agencies and officials must
offer more transparency for the American people and advocacy organizations. Those officials
who would still choose not to follow their guidelines set by the law should be reprimanded and
possibly lose their jobs and benefits.
Migrants in the United States, both legal and undocumented, should both be afforded
their human rights. Whether they have citizenship or not, this precedent of poor treatment

portrays contradictory views on the global scale. The United States will be viewed as hypocrites
when chastising other nations for their treatment of citizens and migrants. With other nations
observing our actions, these countries will likely follow suit. The United States actions will allow
no leverage when trying to coerce other nations to do the right thing. While I would argue that
the U.S. should grant these rights for humanitarian purposes, if for no other reason, the United
States should allow basic human rights to migrants for the purpose of saving face in international
relations.

Bibliography Page:
Blau, Juidth. “Review of The Justice Cascade: How Human Rights Prosecutions are Changing
World Politics”. Contemporary Sociology 41.5. (Sept 2012). 674-675. Accessed
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The Lancet. “Inadequate health care for migrants in the USA”. The Lancet. 373.9669. (Mar 28Apr 3, 2009). 1053. Accessed November 29, 2014.
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Accessed November 29, 2014.
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Challenges and Recommendations”. Global Dialogue (Online) 14.2. (Summer 2012).
104-111. Accessed November 29, 2014.

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