In the current global context, millions of people are forced to migrate

yearly for reasons ranging from persecution and violence, internal armed

conflicts, and forced displacement, to lack of employment and climate

change. In the Americas, we recently witnessed the phenomenon of the

“migrant caravans,” where thousands of people, mostly from the Northern

Triangle of Central America—El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala—

were willing to walk hundreds of miles to enter the U.S.-Mexico border to

escape poverty and violence in their countries. Another caravan of close to

10,000 migrants from the Northern Triangle of Central America including

Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras, as well as Venezuela, Haiti, and

other countries, formed in Mexico in 2022 with the goal of entering the

United States. The deteriorating political and economic situation in

Venezuela over the past few decades has produced a humanitarian crisis in

migration. There are currently at least six million Venezuelan migrants and

refugees globally.

The extent and inhumanity of irregular migration is the symbol—and

consequence—of the failure of the human rights project as a mechanism to

guarantee global justice. There is an abyssal line that divides communities

of rights and systems of oppression when it is not possible for migrants to

move freely from one place to another.

International experts and scholars have suggested that the solution to

dehumanization at the borders is a human rights-based approach to

migration and border governance that ensures respect for migrants’ rights.16

This, however, sorely lacks the backing of hard law. Hence, in the context

of migration, we hear repeatedly of “humanitarianism,” suggesting that our

treatment of the other at the border is oriented by kindness and humanity,

not legal mandate or duty.

This paper shall argue that the humanitarian discourse hides the

fact that the core of the migration problem is that rights are linked to

nationality and not to humanity. Rights are “trump cards held by

individuals” that should be respected by the nation state of which one is a

citizen or to which one belongs. Human rights fails to realize the ideal of

universal justice because they naturalize the border, the Nation State, and

sovereignty. In brief, we live in a context of human rights that seek to

guarantee peace through the division and separation that sovereignty

bestows, rather than through the construction of a global community of

rights. I shall argue that we need to revitalize human rights as a project of

global justice without borders. To do this, the community of human rights

scholars must rethink the relationship of rights to the Nation State and

move beyond its imagined and confined community.

If human rights seek to be a true project of global justice without

borders, it needs to rethink the foundation of rights and head toward a

foundation linked more to capabilities, harmony, and sustainability. Rights

should be conferred on individuals not based on their nationality, but on

their capabilities to flourish. Further, rights are not dependent merely on

autonomy or sovereignty, they have a basis in a global community that

seeks to restore peace and harmony between living beings. Rights serve the

dual purpose of protecting us from the State while also fostering positive

connections with other individuals.