This paper deals with the notion of vulnerability of migrants, with respect to the realities of two countries, the United States and Mexico. The vulnerability of migrants is understood as a heterogeneously imposed condition of powerlessness. This is based on the premise that migrants are inherently vulnerable as subjects of human rights from the point of their departure as they leave home to initiate their migration. That is, any human being is less vulnerable at home than after she leaves home to become a migrant. The same applies to a sociological extension of the notion of home--a community of origin. The same person that migrates has more resources to defend or protect herself when she is at home prior to moving elsewhere than after the outward movement has taken place. The assertion is less salient, however, when one attempts to expand its logic to propose that the further away a migrant is from home, the more vulnerable she is. This might be more true for internal than for international migration, to the extent that the notion of migrants’ vulnerability is linked to their social and political relations with the members of the society within their actual location and to the corresponding national State. When linking to the latter, the notion of a migrant’s vulnerability becomes altered; in as much as the migrant becomes an international one, by virtue of entering a country other than her own. Thus, the initial assertion that the vulnerability of migrants is directly related to their geographical distance from home should be restricted to the case of internal migration. In summary, the crossing of an international border alters the relation between the migrant and the State or States of her destination, making it necessary to distinguish between the ‘internal’ (vis-a-vis the national State of origin) and the ‘international’ (vis-a-vis the State or States of destination) vulnerability of migrants. Such a distinction has to do with the different nature of the corresponding State’s accountability regarding the protection of human rights from which the notion of migrants’ vulnerability is derived. In the case of the “internal” vulnerability, the corresponding State of origin is accountable to its nationals (in accordance with its own national laws) in its duties to protect the human rights (usually in the form of protecting its citizens’ constitutional rights) of its subjects. In the case of “international” vulnerability, the State’s accountability, in this case in the destination country, is to the international community, usually represented by the United Nations or its agencies, in accordance with international law.
24 Geo. Immigr. L.J. 565-583 (2010)
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