Spring 2017 Conference – Beyond Borders: The Human Rights of Non-Citizens at Home and Abroad

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Although international human rights are universal in theory, human rights law has long tolerated limits on human rights protections for non-citizens. States deny many basic rights to non-citizens even when they are long-term residents with deep ties to the community, or when their arrival and presence result from a state’s own economic policies, workforce needs, or military or foreign policy decisions. International refugee law imposes limited duties on states with respect to non-citizens outside their borders who are fleeing persecution, but these laws and institutions seem increasingly inadequate for responding to new triggers of forced migration, such as gang violence and climate change. Citizenship as a basis for the denial of rights is most evident, and most fraught, in the context of migration, when individuals often find themselves without the protection of a state. Systematically denying human rights to those in situations of vulnerability precipitated by violence, catastrophe, or economic dislocation—when those conditions are often attributable to the receiving state—seems both morally and practically unjustified.

The purpose of this conference is to consider the relationship between citizenship and human rights through an interdisciplinary lens. The conference will consider “citizenship” in its broadest sense as a proxy for belonging, although the measure of belonging may be legal, political, or social, and both reflects and compounds other sources of inequality such as discrimination on the basis of race and gender. The conference will begin by introducing issues of citizenship and human rights from the perspective of history, philosophy, ethics, and literature. The conference will then connect two strands of “othering” of non-citizens that are routinely tolerated by human rights law—the disparate treatment of individuals within a state’s borders based on citizenship status and the refusal to extend human rights obligations extraterritorially. In making this connection, the conference will generate discussion about new modes of envisioning the relationship between citizenship and human rights that would enable more effective responses to contemporary global human rights crises of flight, migration, and statelessness.

If you are an individual who requires an accommodation to participate, contact University Events and Conference Services at 860.486.1038.

Thursday, April 20, 2017 - Session I

2:00 PM – 4:00 PM Lecture
“Human Rights at Home: A Workshop with CT Students for a Dream”

In this workshop, CT Students for a Dream will work with the audience to co-create a foundation of understanding about the current immigration landscape in the United States. Facilitators will begin by breaking down some common myths about immigration and discussing the effects of local, state, and national policies on the lives of undocumented students. Workshop participants will also learn about how undocumented students in Connecticut are building power through local movements to change policies that will protect themselves and their communities. Together, participants will explore the rights that undocumented students have in the state of Connecticut with respect to education, employment, and driving. Finally, facilitators will address the current battle that undocumented students in Connecticut are fighting: access to student-generated institutional funds. In conclusion, workshop facilitators will provide information on how participants can get involved in these issues.

4:00 PM – 5:00 PM RECEPTION

Eleanor Acer, Senior Director Refugee Protection, Human Rights First

Friday, April 21, 2017 - Session II

8:00 AM – 8:45 AM BREAKFAST


9:00 AM – 10:30 AM PANEL I
“Membership and Rights: Historical, Philosophical, Ethical, and Literary Perspectives on Citizenship”

Myria Georgiou, Associate Professor and Deputy Head of Department, Department of Media and Communications, London School of Economics
David Gutiérrez, Professor & Academic Senate Distinguished Teacher, Department of History, University of California San Diego
Serena Parekh, Associate Professor of Philosophy, Northeastern University
Moderator: Eleni Coundouriotis, Professor of English, University of Connecticut

This session will explore the relationship between human rights and citizenship from historical, philosophical, ethical, and literary perspectives. Panelists will address questions such as: How has the relationship between human rights and citizenship changed over time? How does status as a non-citizen effectively circumscribe rights? Are practices that deprive non-citizens of full enjoyment of their human rights morally or philosophically justifiable? What kinds of subjectivities are produced by the categories of citizen and non-citizen? How do these subjectivities intersect with race, class, and gender? What are the challenges of evoking the experiences of non-citizens through literature or in the media? How do representations of citizenship, migration and statelessness in art and the media contribute to public understanding and influence policy discussions?

10:45 AM – 12:15 PM PANEL 2
“Rights Across Borders: Human Rights and Obligations to Non-Citizens Outside Borders”

Jacqueline Bhabha, Professor of the Practice of Health and Human Rights, Harvard School of Public Health
Brad Blitz, Professor of International Politics at Middlesex University London, Visiting Professor at the London School of
Economics, and Senior Fellow of the Global Migration Centre in the Graduate Institute, Geneva
Jaya Ramji-Nogales, Professor of Law and Co-Director of the Institute for International Law and Public Policy at Temple University
Moderator: Tendayi BloomLecturer in Politics and International Studies at The Open University, UK

This session will explore the obligations that states have to non-citizens outside their borders, including obligations to receive refugees and to address the underlying factors contributing to flight. Panelists will address questions such as: Do international human rights obligations extend across borders? What obligations, if any, do states have to allow entry? Are state obligations more demanding if the conditions causing flight are linked to the state’s own actions? What have been the adverse human rights impacts of increased border controls and barriers to migration, and is there a human rights argument these should be lessened? Is current international law adequate to respond to new causes of displacement, such as climate change? To the growing crisis of statelessness? What are the gendered and racialized dimensions of international migration and immigration policies? Do states have obligations to address the underlying conditions that cause displacement and migration? Are international norms and institutions adequate to respond to the global crises of flight, migration, and statelessness?

12:15 PM – 1:30 PM LUNCH

1:30 PM – 3:00 PM PANEL 3
“The Right to Have Rights: Human Rights and Citizenship Within Borders”

Susan Coutin, Professor, Department of Criminology, Law, and Society and the Department of Anthropology, University of California, Irvine
Daniel Kanstroom, Professor, Director of the International Human Rights Program, and Thomas F. Carney Distinguished Scholar, Boston College Law School
Tanya Golash-Boza, Professor, Department of Sociology, University of California, Merced
Ayten Gündoğdu, Associate Professor, Political Science, Barnard College
Moderator: Kristy Belton, Director of Professional Development, International Studies Association

This session will address human rights of non-citizens present within the boundaries of a political community. Panelists will address questions such as: What rights do non-citizens within a state have under international law? How are these rights affected by immigration status and conditions of arrival? Why does the human rights regime tolerate fewer rights for non-citizens? How do different conceptions of citizenship affect our understanding of rights and obligations toward non-citizens? Are the rights of non-citizens being adequately protected in the context of current crises? How are the rights of citizen-children affected by their parents’ lack of citizenship? How do other statuses such as gender, sexual orientation, and race intersect with discrimination against non-citizens?


Deborah Anker, Clinical Professor of Law, Harvard Law School
Hiroshi Motomura, Susan Westerberg Prager Professor of Law, UCLA School of Law
Larry Yungk, UNHCR for Refugees Senior Resettlement Officer
Moderator: Richard Ashby Wilson, Gladstein Distinguished Chair and Professor of Anthropology and Law, University of Connecticut School of Law and Human Rights Institute

4:45 PM – 6:00 PM RECEPTION