National Immigration Forum

Practical Solutions for Immigrants and America

Blog & Updates

A Promise Not Yet Kept

December 10, 2009 - Posted by Maurice Belanger

Border wall 


This post is by Forum intern Danielle Alvarado


On December 10, 1948, the United Nations passed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In "recognition of the inherent dignity and inalienable rights of all members of the human family," the body's members “pledged themselves to achieve the promotion of universal respect for and observance of human rights and fundamental freedoms.”


The drafters went on to let us know exactly what they had in mind: protection from arbitrary detention, equal protection under the law, fair and safe working conditions, and the right to education are just a few of the provisions they laid out. They are all admirable goals on the best of days; unfortunately for many immigrants who find themselves in the United States 61 years later, these are not the best of days.


Amidst political grandstanding, vindictive enforcement measures reliant on racial profiling, and discrimination at work, and on the street, immigrants are under siege. Instead of protection, refugees and asylum seekers are now more likely to join the 400,000 individuals held annually by our sprawling immigration detention system that is rife with poor management and abuse. Unscrupulous employers who profit from undocumented labor call in immigration agents when those workers attempt to unionize. More than 5,600 migrants have died in the deserts of the Southwest as a result of a border enforcement strategy that aims to keep out the immigrant workers for whom no legal avenue exists in our broken immigration system.


We need consider only one recently-departed CNN host to gauge how well we are meeting another one of the declaration's goals: "act[ing] towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.”


Broken families, rampant abuse of workers, and the all-too-frequent affronts to dignity. I can't help but think that this was not the kind of existence the Declaration's authors had it mind, especially not for those of us living in a country that so often served as a global moral compass of sorts. We can, and must do better. Passing long-overdue comprehensive immigration reform is an important first step.


Across the country immigrant communities and their allies are commemorating Human Rights Day with a simple message: we are here to help the United States keep the promise it made 61 years ago.  Here are a few examples:


  • In Portland, CAUSA is holding a candlelight vigil at the Edith Green Federal Building at 4:30 pm.


  • The Council on American Islamic Relations (Chicago) and the Jewish Council on Urban Affairs are holding an interfaith event at First United Methodist Church.


  • In Arizona, Border Action Network members march for human rights and immigration reform in Tucson, Nogales, and Douglas.


  • Over 70 people representing 25 groups from throughout New Jersey will march six and half miles from the Federal Immigration Building in Newark to the Elizabeth Detention Center.


  • In Washington DC, Representative Raul Grijalva (D-AZ) hosts a public screening of "The 800 Mile Wall."  The film chronicles the efforts of humanitarians along the border.


By this time next year, Congress will have passed comprehensive immigration reform. By this time next year, for the many victims of our broken immigration system, we will have started to make good on the promise we made in 1948.


Photo: Gatekeeper Productions 

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