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Protection and Promotion of the Human Rights of Migrants

Protection and Promotion of the Human Rights of Migrants

Sarah Sewall
Under Secretary for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights
High Level Panel Discussion on Human Rights Mainstreaming
Geneva, Switzerland
March 4, 2014

Thank you, Mr. President.

The United States has long welcomed immigrants. Many Americans have immigrant ancestors in their recent past. The United States takes in 20% of the world’s immigrants, and currently 12% of our population is foreign-born. More refugees are resettled in the United States than in all other countries of the world combined. Immigrants have made enormous and positive contributions to our cultural diversity and our economic growth and development. Additionally, more than one million American citizens currently live outside our own borders. The United States is committed to protecting the human rights of migrants in our country, regardless of their immigration status. In this vein, we stress that all states — whether they are countries of origin, transit, or destination — must protect the human rights of migrants in their territories.

Protecting these rights and ensuring the humane treatment of regular and irregular migrants, on the one hand, and securing one’s borders and enforcing immigration laws, on the other hand, are not inconsistent goals. Rather, they can and must be pursued in tandem. Migration policies should protect the rights and respect the dignity of migrants while also preserving states’ abilities to enforce their immigration laws and ensure the safe, orderly, and humane movement of persons into and out of their countries.

We look for ways to continue the complementary and strong initiatives within the UN system and in other forums that address the human rights of migrants, including the International Dialogue on Migration, and the Global Migration Group (GMG). We were pleased to participate in the High-Level Dialogue on International Migration and Development last October in New York, where we co-chaired, with our Mexican colleagues, a roundtable on the human rights of migrants.

We are also an active participant in many other intergovernmental processes that address the human rights of migrants, including within the ILO and the IOM, and we look forward to participating in the Global Forum on Migration and Development this May. We encourage states to fully engage and participate in the meaningful discussions in existing international and regional fora and at the bilateral level, as appropriate, to help advance the promotion and protection of the human rights of migrants, and urge states to make significant efforts to include the perspectives of labor, civil society, and other stakeholders.


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