Why Immigrants Deserve Rights
Thu, April 22, 2021

Why Immigrants Deserve Rights

President Trump said that he will bar immigrant visa applicants from entering the US unless they can prove that they have the means to pay for medical care or prove they will have health insurance / Photo by: Max Pixel

 

"Immigrants who enter this country should not further saddle our healthcare system, and subsequently American taxpayers, with higher costs," US President Donald Trump recently proclaimed. The president has been known to suppress the rights of and attack immigrants with his policies since he came into office, and this is the most recent example. 

Trump said that he will bar immigrant visa applicants from entering the US unless they can prove that they have the means to pay for medical care or prove they will have health insurance. CNN, an American news-based pay television channel, reported that consular officials need to make sure that visa applicants possess the financial means to “pay for reasonably foreseeable medical costs,” which will take effect on November 3.

A recent report by the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) showed how the Trump Administration’s policy changes are slowing and restricting legal immigration. Some of these policies are those slowing or stopping the admission of foreign workers and entrepreneurs to the US, and travel bans and extreme vetting directives. These are evident in the growing backlog and the increase in processing times for immigration applications.

These policies are affecting more than 40 million immigrants living in the US – the country that has more immigrants than any other nation in the world. According to the Pew Research Center, a nonpartisan fact tank that informs the public about issues, attitudes, and trends, immigrants account for 13.6 percent of the US population. Mexico, which is the top origin country of the immigrant population, has 1.2 million immigrants. This accounts for 25 percent of all US immigrants, followed by China (6 percent), India (6 percent), the Philippines (5 percent), and El Salvador (3 percent). 

Why People Migrate

People migrate not because they just feel like doing it. Their decision to uproot their lives and start from scratch in a new place is never an easy one. According to Global Citizen, a movement of engaged citizens using their collective voice to end extreme poverty by 2030, many immigrants seek protection from potential or ongoing violence and prosecution based on race, religion, nationality, and gender from their own country.

Most of the time, immigrants choose the US because they see the country as a place where they can get a better life. Aside from that, environmental factors caused by climate change are also real threats that convince them to find another place to live in. Other factors involve seeking access to healthcare, escaping poverty, wanting more opportunities for the family, and many more. 

However, a report from the International Organization for Migration showed that migrants are most vulnerable to modern slavery, human trafficking, and forced labor. According to ReliefWeb, the largest humanitarian information portal in the world, they are continuously being trafficked or otherwise exploited and abused during transit and upon arrival. Thus, policies for safe and legal migration are greatly needed. 

Jenn Morris, chief executive of Minderoo Foundation’s Walk Free initiative, said, “It is vital governments provide meaningful protection for people fleeing repressive regimes, violence, and conflict. Research indicates these situations increase migrants’ vulnerability to modern slavery. We call on all governments to create safer migration pathways, provide protection for vulnerable people and bolster the capacity of first responders in crisis situations.”

Most of the time, immigrants choose the US because they see the country as a place where they can get a better life / Photo by: Mstyslav Chernov via Wikimedia Commons

 

The Immigrants’ Rights

Human rights make sure that each person does not suffer from discrimination and violence based on who they are or where they come from. However, politically disenfranchised immigrants have become a more vulnerable group, being denied basic rights although many laws protect them. Immigrants are not the only ones affected when a certain government has the power to deny legal rights and due process; its citizens can suffer, too.

This issue is particularly important in the US. There has been an ongoing debate about whether or not immigrants should have rights. The answer is yes. Regardless of an individual’s background, they must be guaranteed equal rights. In the US, many Americans don’t believe that immigrants should have rights and freedom since the term “illegal immigrants” doesn’t appear in the US constitution. 

Human rights make sure that each person does not suffer from discrimination and violence based on who they are or where they come from. However, politically disenfranchised immigrants have become a more vulnerable group / Photo by: Takver via Flickr

 

However, the Constitution has been repeatedly interpreted by the US Supreme Court, Congress, and federal appeals courts. While many argue that “We the People of the United States” refers only to legal citizens, the US Supreme Court has stated that it also refers to everyone living in the country – whether or not they are a citizen. As Cristina Rodriguez, a professor at Yale Law School, said, “Most of the provisions of the Constitution apply on the basis of personhood and jurisdiction in the United States.”

Some of the rights that immigrants have include the right to due process, the right to legal counsel, the right to be with their family, the right to vote or hold office, the right to education, and the right against unreasonable search and seizure. 

Overall, immigrants should be granted rights without any policies or laws restricting them. When they are denied these rights, they are most vulnerable to abuse and exploitation. It's important that countries address the need to protect and assist them. Creating safe migration pathways that better reflect the realities of migration and labor markets not only balances the needs of immigrant rights but also national interests.