Jorge Bustamante, former UN special rapporteur on migrants' rights, considers immigration issues at Rubin Symposium

NYU Law’s 20th annual Herbert Rubin and Justice Rose Luttan Rubin International Law Symposium on November 6 focused on the human rights of migrants, especially on how international human rights perspectives could help the US and other nations reframe debates on immigration policy. Jorge Bustamante, a Mexican sociologist, former United Nations special rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, and Eugene Conley Professor of Sociology at the University of Notre Dame, delivered a keynote address to kick off the all-day program.

Jorge Bustamante

Bustamante characterized the conservative sweep in the national US election held two days before as bad news for immigrants, invoking ongoing litigation involving alleged human rights violations in immigrant detention centers. But, he added, it was not only a US issue. “This is something that actually pales in comparison to the violations of human rights of migrants at the southern border of Mexico,” he said. “It is the most painful and greatest challenge for the Mexican people, who have done so little for the improvement of the conditions of corruption and impunity under which violations of human rights occur at the border between Mexico and Central America.”

Strict immigration enforcement laws such as Arizona’s SB 1070, Bustamante asserted, have inspired legislators in states such as Georgia and Alabama to pursue similar measures. In his own work, Bustamante has focused on migrants’ vulnerability, inherent in the condition of leaving their own homes to go to another jurisdiction where they are subject to different laws.

That condition, he said, has had clear implications in the search for solutions to the immigration dilemma, especially in the US, where Congress must try to find a unilateral fix. “The unilateralism of the conception of a solution is in contrast with the nature of the phenomenon, which is bilateral or multilateral, depending on the origin of the migrant,” said Bustamante. “That leads to the premise that a unilateral decision is not going to be able to solve the problems associated with a bilateral phenomenon, not only because of the empirical evidence about the internationality of the phenomenon of immigration, but also the territoriality of the law. Whatever solution will come from the United States Congress will not be implemented outside the territory of the United States, but the phenomenon comes also from outside the United States.”

The symposium continued with additional keynote remarks by Professor Susan Gzesh of the University of Chicago, followed by panels on the human rights of migrants and attempts at US immigration reform. The event was co-sponsored by the NYU Journal of International Law and Politics, the NYU Center for Human Rights and Global Justice, the Migration Policy Institute, the NYU Immigrant Rights Project, NYU Law Students for Human Rights, the NYU Anti-Trafficking Advocacy Coalition, and the NYU International Law Society.

Watch Jorge Bustamante's keynote address beginning at 20:56 (15 min):

Posted November 18, 2014