UC Irvine Journal of International, Transnational, and Comparative Law


This Note uses the example of the United States’ immigration policies to analyze the following questions: (1) what type of rights international human rights are; (2) where these rights come from; (3) how their content should be determined; and (4) what conditions need to exist in order for them to be enforced. The Note argues that answering these questions is an essential prerequisite to enforcing human rights in a way that is truly universal. Part I of the Note grounds these questions in human experience through the case of a refugee seeking asylum at the U.S. border in San Ysidro and discusses the various international human rights laws that are at stake. Part II discusses the meaning and content of human rights and highlights the problem of the indeterminacy of rights. Part III expands on the problem of indeterminacy, provides a critique of current discourse of universal human rights, and suggests that politicization of the concept of human rights is necessary in order for the content of international human rights law to serve its purpose of guaranteeing rights for all. Finally, Part IV returns to the problem at the U.S. border in order to provide an example of what politicization of human rights discourse would look like.