Take a closer look at some of the events and stories taking place across the world to stand up for human rights.


Standing up for migrant rights, standing up for everyone’s rights

“At the end of the day, we are all migrants. Every single nation has been created as a result of migration.”

For Graciela Zamudio Campos, a human rights lawyer dedicated to supporting migrants on the Mexico / USA border, recognising what we all have in common is one of the first steps to creating a better future for people on the move.

The people of Tijuana share a common history of coming and going between two places, says Graciela, and it is this understanding that can serve to foster a sense of solidarity and build a “giant community” to support each other.

“We can all be loved from being deeply understood,” she believes. “It is this vision that can help us defend others, defend ourselves and create strong communities that are ethically and politically responsible. It’s a win-win for everyone.”

Graciela’s human rights law background led her to found and establish Alma Migrante, an organisation which works with people who defend the human rights of migrants living in the state of Baja California, Mexico. They provide litigation support to migrant rights defenders on various cases, and also ensure communities are aware of how the law works and therefore how to use it to defend the rights of migrants.

A change in the narrative

Shifting the typically fearful and divisive narrative on migration to a more hopeful story requires work, says Graciela, but it’s not impossible.

“What’s important is that the person who tells the stories, is the one living them. The story cannot be told if you are not there. While we all have a role to play, the vision of the future needs to be created by the person who is experiencing the present.”

She stresses also how critical it is that the story being told is accurate and precise.

“They say the truth will set us free,” she says. “This freedom is one of the most important reasons to move away from a fearful, inaccurate narrative, and to stand up for the human rights of migrants.”

Information, rule of law, and the creation of communities

According to Graciela, “the real enemy is an ignorance of the law.”

A significant component of her work with migrants and migrant rights defenders is therefore ensuring equal access for all to information, particularly regarding how laws can protect them.

In 2018, Alma Migrante was instrumental in instating an important resolution for migrants. This meant that for the first time, a federal judge ordered municipal authorities to stop local police from unlawfully handing over detained migrants to immigration authorities to be deported. The resolution was critical because it gave the Tijuana population clear information about the illegality of an established practice, and to migrants, an affirmation that laws are there to protect them.

“The law helps us create communities,” she continues, “and it is in all of our interests to know our rights.”

Migration: an opportunity

For Graciela, knowing and understanding others is crucial to promote solidarity in communities. “Migration gives us the opportunity to be the community or the society that we would ourselves like to find in a foreign country if we were to need or ask for help,” she says.

As she explains, it is through exchange of memories and experiences, that we realise our world is very big, and that everyone’s reality matters.

“Migrants, and solidarity with migrants, can give us hope for a better world for all people. If I defend the rights of others, I am promoting the rights of everybody, and therefore mine and my family’s, too.”

Lesson from the pandemic: “We are all human beings”

Tijuana’s migrant community has not been spared from COVID-19 and its consequences. In overcrowded migration centres, the virus spread rapidly, and the economic impact on people who have lost their jobs has been enormous.

Despite the circumstances, communities have banded together to help.

Graciela and her organisation have been working hard throughout 2020 to ensure migrants are protected and – as many are now without work – can retain their legal documents ensuring them the right to stay. They have continued to strengthen the work of migrant rights defenders, and to bring together communities.

“The pandemic has made it clear that disease doesn’t require a passport, and nor does it care about borders,” says Graciela. “It has brought home that we are all human beings.”

Disclaimer: The views, information and opinions expressed in this article are those of the personsfeatured in the story and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

  • I will respect your rights regardless of who you are. I will uphold your rights even when I disagree with you
  • When anyone’s human rights are denied, everyone's rights are undermined, so I will stand up
  • I will raise my voice. I will take action. I will use my rights to stand up for your rights.

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