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Annual Observances

Take Action for Migrant Rights on December 18, International Migrants Day

No More Deaths: water jugs along desert trails save the lives of migrants crossing through the hostile terrain from Mexico into the US.
Walter Staton (left), of Tucson, Arizona, Ros Ruiz, of Oakland, California, and Sarah Parker, of Redlands, California, survey a cache of water jugs in the desert of southern Arizona. They place the jugs along trails in order to save the lives of migrants crossing through the hostile terrain from Mexico into the United States. They are members of No More Deaths, a group dedicated to stopping the deaths of migrants along the border. By Paul Jeffrey.
In this season of Advent, we commemorate International Migrants Day on December 18, recognizing the efforts, contributions and rights of migrants worldwide. This year marks the 20th anniversary of the United Nations (U.N.) migrant rights convention.

In this season of Advent, we commemorate International Migrants Day on December 18. We are in preparation for the birth of the Christ child, who was born in a manger and was taken by his parents to a foreign land as they fled Herod’s violence. Jesus came to proclaim a reign of radical welcome and hospitality and of justice for all of God’s people. As we prepare to welcome the Christ child let us also model his radical hospitality by affirming the rights of migrants around the world.

Some 200 million people live or work in a foreign country. Because they are outside the legal protection of their home countries, migrants are often particularly vulnerable to abuse and exploitation, and their rights thus require special protection.

International Migrants Day on December 18 recognizes the efforts, contributions and rights of migrants worldwide. This year marks the 20th anniversary of the United Nations (U.N.) migrant rights convention.

The convention establishes human rights for migrants regardless of their status. It aims at guaranteeing equality of treatment and the same working conditions for migrants and nationals. It provides guidance on the elaboration of national migration policies based on respect for human rights and the rule of law. It sets out provisions to combat abuse and exploitation of migrant workers and members of their families throughout the migration process.

However, to date, only 44 nations have ratified the convention. Ratification means a nation agrees to abide by the convention’s framework and make their national laws and policies compatible with the convention. The United States has not signed nor ratified the convention.

United Methodist Women joins the Global Campaign for Ratification of the Convention on the Rights of Migrants, Migrant Rights International, National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, Amnesty International and other organizations in a push for universal ratification of the migrant rights convention.

The Global Forum on Migration and Development 2010 was an intergovernmental gathering in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, in which United Methodist Women participated as a civil society observer. At that November 2010 event, U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navanathem Pillay affirmed that human rights are inherent and do not stop at borders. She stressed that governments are obligated to apply international legal instruments dedicated to the rights of migrants. She urged countries to ratify the Migrant Workers Convention: “It’s shameful that only about 40 states have ratified this convention,” she said. 

Call on your senator to support the DREAM Act 

You can take action to support migrant youth in the United States by calling your Senator and urging him or her to pass the DREAM Act (the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act). The DREAM Act is bipartisan legislation that addresses the situation of young children who were brought into this country without proper documents by their parents. The act provides steps that will allow these youth to obtain lawful permanent residency, provided that for two years they attend college or serve in the U.S. military and meet other requirements. The number to call is 202-224-3121 to reach anyone in Congress. Or you can find them on the U.S. Senate website. The DREAM Act is likely to be considered this month, so please call often.

On December 14, Harriett Jane Olson, Deputy General Secretary and Inelda González, President of United Methodist Women sent a letter to the Senate urging passage of the DREAM Act, as well as a letter to United Methodist Women encouraging members to call the Senate this week and take action. Their letters are linked on the sidebar. Please circulate these widely. 

Encourage the U.S. government to ratify the Migrants Rights Convention

International Migrants Day is a key moment to push for U.S. ratification of the Migrant Rights Convention. Take time in Advent to take action for migrant rights.

Write to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton urging President Obama to sign the treaty and to make ratification a priority:

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton,
PA/PL room 2206
U.S. Department of State
2201 C Street NW, Washington, D.C. 20520

Dear Secretary Clinton,
I am a United Methodist Women member. The rights of migrants are central to our concern for women, youth and children around the world. I urge the Obama Administration to show support for migrants’ rights by signing and urging Congress to ratify the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families (the Migrant Rights Convention). By doing this the United States acts on its commitment to protect the human rights of migrants, recently reaffirmed by Assistant Secretary Eric Schwartz at the Global Forum on Migration and Development in Mexico. Please keep me informed of the steps you are taking for U.S. action on this convention. Thank you.


Celebrate the contributions of migrants and protest of abuse and discrimination against migrants.

See the sidebar for more resources on International Migrants Day.

Some rights endorsed by the Migrant Workers Convention

  • Protection from discrimination or distinction of any kind on the basis of sex, race, color, language, religion or convictions, political or other opinion, national ethnic or social origin, nationality, age, economic position, property, marital status, birth, or other status.
  • Freedom to leave any country, including your home country, and the right at any time to re-enter your home country.
  • Treatment with humanity and respect for your dignity and cultural identity. Detained migrants are entitled to the same rights as nationals in the same situation.
  • Right to participate in meetings and activities of trade unions.
  • Family reunification and protection of appropriate measures to ensure the protection of the unity of your family.
  • Equal treatment as citizens in protections against dismissal from employment, regardless of legal status.

United Methodist Women Immigrant/Civil Rights Initiative, 777 United Nations Plaza, 11th floor, New York, NY 10017. Phone: 212-682-3633. Website: www.unitedmethodistwomen.org.

Last Updated: 12/14/2010

© 2014 United Methodist Women