The protection of immigrants’s rights and human rights in the United States of America is at the stake. The ban on Syrian refugees and Muslims, of seven nations, from entering the United States indicates a dark time for human rights and unfolds a humanitarian crisis on a global scale.
The US has always been known as the land of immigrants and multiculturalism is its national-cultural identity. Denying this multicultural reality by targeting Muslim immigrants is clearly religious discrimination. This is also an outrageous breach of international human rights obligations and the 1951 Refugee Convention.
The US is a signatory to the 1951 Refugee Convention. The country is legally bound to respect its obligation towards refugees and must shelter them if their life is in danger. It cannot target or single immigrants out due to their origin, race, colour and religion.
In this humanitarian crisis, the unbridled authority of the state which controls and restricts the rights of immigrants makes human rights less effective. The states, by their sovereignty and through immigration laws, control the entry and exit of a person, including refugees and migrants, within its jurisdiction.
In this context, it is clear that immigration laws are inherently discriminatory since they treat people on the basis of their origin and economic status. For example, it is easier for a European national to travel to the US than an Indian or an African since visa rules are stricter for citizens of developing countries. The states use immigration laws according to their political agenda just like what Donald Trump is doing in the US to promote hate against Muslim immigrants.
Nevertheless, the real problem is not Trump and leaders who follow extreme ideologies; it is the unlimited power of state’s sovereignty which separates a citizen from others and characterises migrants as unwanted and dangerous.
Signing international human rights treaties and conventions is any state’s legal prerogative. In a globalised world, the network of international civil society (and solidarity movements) and migration have increased. No state can ignore human rights obligation and breach international norms. If they do so, they will have to face the repercussions and action from the world community. This has happened with North Korea, and can happen with the US if it continues demonising religious minorities and immigrants.
In the next French presidential election, extreme right wing leader Marion Le Pen is likely to be elected as the president. If this happens, the recent order by President Trump, would be replicated in France. This would affect families of immigrants adversely, and people would be further polarised on the lines of religion and nationalism creating an environment of hatred and violence in not just France but whole Europe.
Donald Trump and Le Pen represent an extreme right wing ideology which can be countered effectively by pressuring states to fulfil their international human rights obligations which include respecting the rights of immigrants.
In this age of globalisation, it will not be wise for a state to assume that it is a mono-cultural country. In such a scenario, nations banning immigrants and migrants on account of their religion and ethnicity is a moral and legal blunder.
The article was earlier published in The Citizen