A lawsuit was recently filed in federal court after the family of Juan Rodriguez said that his deportation violated their religious rights. According to the family, they are Seventh Day Adventists, and their religion requires their family to stay together.
Does deportation violate a family’s religious rights?
Humans have migrated throughout history. People migrate for different reasons, such as reuniting with their families; seeking better economic opportunities; and escaping human rights abuses, including armed conflict, persecution, and torture. See Amnesty International, People on the Move. Migrants are generally entitled to the same human rights protections as all individuals, although States may limit migrants’ rights in some ways, such as with regard to voting and political participation.
Many human rights treaties explicitly prohibit discrimination on the basis of national origin and require States to ensure that migrants’ human rights are equally protected. Additionally, like other particularly vulnerable groups, migrants have been given special protections under international law, to address situations where their rights are most at risk, such as in the workplace, in detention, or in transit. The protections afforded to a migrant, such as access to social security, will also depend on which treaties a State has ratified. See International Commission of Jurists, Migration and International Human Rights Law: A Practitioners’ Guide (2014), 54.
While States retain discretion to manage migrants’ exit and entry through their territory, human rights standards apply to this management. And, international legal principles limit who they can expel and under what circumstances. According to the principle of non-refoulement, States must not deport a migrant to a country where he or she is likely to face torture or serious human rights violations.
The following provisions prohibit discrimination on the basis of national origin, protect the right to a nationality, or address the special protections owed to migrants: