Migration has greatly increased in recent years, bringing into question whether current legislation provides sufficient protections for migrants’ well-being, and at what cost. The United Nations Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families1 tries to provide a solution to that proposed problem. The Convention was signed in 1990 and entered into force in 2003, and the Committee on Migrant Workers (CMW) monitors implementation of the convention. The treaty is meant to ensure minimum protections to all migrants, ensuring freedom from discrimination based on race, national or ethnic origin, sex, religion or any other status, in all aspects of work, including in hiring, conditions of work, and promotion, and in access to housing, health care and basic services. It also ensures freedom from arbitrary expulsion from their country of employment and protection from violence, physical injury, threats and intimidation by public officials or by private individuals, groups or institutions. The treaty recognizes that legal migrants have the legitimacy to claim more rights than undocumented migrants, but it stresses that undocumented migrants must see their fundamental human rights respected. Many nations have signed, but so far they are all source countries—those that migrants come from, rather than immigrate to. No Western migrant-receiving state has ratified the Convention, even though the majority of migrants live in Europe and North America. Other important receiving countries, such as Australia, the Arab states of the Persian Gulf and India have also not ratified the Convention. This means that the treaty is not in effect where the majority of migrants actually live and work. So, one of the main questions in this debate is whether these specific non-signatories should jump on-board and sign. What actual changes would ratification of the treaty actually affect? Who would they benefit, and who would they harm?
1 U.N. High Commission for Human Rights, Resolution 45/158 (1990) [International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families], December 18, 1990, http://www2.ohchr.org/english/law/cmw.htm.
Migrants around the world are often seen as second-class citizens, and this inequality is encouraged by legislation. Unless migrants receive equal social and economic rights, they will never be seen as equal in a human sense. According to Article 13 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, everyone has the right to leave or enter a country, as well as to move within it (internal migration). This freedom of movement is often not granted under current laws.
Human rights also include fair treatment under the welfare state, which migrants are often denied. Without this equal treatment, common myths about migrants will continue to be widely believed. These myths claim that immigrants are criminals and that they steal jobs from natives. The organization Migrant Rights says, “All these myths rob migrant workers and refugees of their humanity, and are aimed at portraying them as less deserving of our sympathy and help.”
It is a violation of migrants’ human rights to be treated this way, and they will only be seen as equals when there is a sweeping change in their legal protections in and between the nations of the world.
 Migrant Rights, "Fact-checking the Israeli government’s incitement against migrants and refugees," October 1st, 2010, accessed June 30, 2011, http://www.migrant-rights.org/2010/10/01/fact-checking-the-israeli-gover....
Migration is a problem; not migrant rights. Migrant rights are already protected under human rights law. If a nation violates existing international human rights law against a migrant, perhaps with exploitative working conditions, wrongful imprisonment, seizure of property, discrimination, or violence, existing international law already adequately protects them. There is no need to expand human rights law to create a separate category and separate protections for migrants.
Because the issue of migrant rights is a global one, concerned with human rights and the domestic and international actions of states, a U.N. convention is an appropriate solution. The U.N. is the best body to act because although the situation for migrant workers may be slightly different in each state, there are basic rights that they all deserve. In addition, even if each state sought individually to protect migrant rights, they might not be able to, because governing migration takes coordination between states. With international legislation, states would be held accountable for protecting migrant rights; and, migrant policies and protections would be better coordinated. The international community has helped the global economy adapt to rising globalization, with such bodies as the World Trade Organization, the World Bank, and the International Monetary Fund. Migration is an essential part of globalization, but there is no international body regulating the flow of workers around the world. Jason Deparle of the New York Times writes, “The most personal and perilous form of movement is the most unregulated. States make (and often ignore) their own rules, deciding who can come, how long they stay, and what rights they enjoy." The U.N. Convention would fill this gap.
Indeed, the U.N.’s solution to regulate migration represents a reasonable and thorough approach. It is reasonable because it does not ask too much of states, requiring only that they provide migrants with basic rights. It is thorough because it provides protection for each of the many challenges and injustices facing migrant workers. Because migrant rights are a growing problem and an essential part of globalization, an international regulatory body would be an effective way of improving human rights around the world.
 Deparle, Jason. "Global Migration: A World Ever More on the Move," New York Times. June 26, 2010. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/27/weekinreview/27deparle.html
Even if the international community decided it wanted to better protect the human rights of migrants, an international treaty will not necessarily advance that cause, as international law has proven to be very difficult to enforce. This will continue to be a problem into the foreseeable future.
Migrants face a number of challenges in integrating into a new workforce, and the opportunities to exploit them can be dangerous. These challenges include the right to join unions as well as inhumane working conditions. According to Dr Tasneem Siddiqui, "In 1929, the International Labour Organisation (ILO) identified migrant workers as the most vulnerable group in the world. Seventy years have elapsed since then, but they still belong to that group." Ratifying the U.N. convention would create specific changes in many countries that would finally make migrants less vulnerable. For example, Articles 26 and 40 provide all migrant workers the right to join and form trade unions, which is banned for them in all of the Arab Gulf states. Protecting the right to unionize, allows migrants to fight for their own rights in the workplace, which is the best way to ensure that they will be protected in the long-term.
In addition to the right to unionize, the Convention ensures, in Article 25, “Migrant workers shall enjoy treatment not less favourable than that which applies to nationals” in the workplace. All states that have not already done so ought to immediately ratify the U.N. Convention so that migrant workers will receive equal treatment in the workplace.
 Daily Star, “Ratify U.N. convention on migrant workers’ rights,” May 3, 2009, http://www.thedailystar.net/newDesign/news-details.php?nid=86583.
 Human Rights Watch. "Saudi Arabia/GCC States: Ratify Migrant Rights Treaty." April 10th, 2003. http://www.hrw.org/en/news/2003/04/10/saudi-arabiagcc-states-ratify-migr....
In most democratic, developed countries—which are those that receive the most immigrants—all people share equal rights in the workplace, as long as they immigrated legally. The workplace protections in the U.N. Convention that only apply to legal migrants. Ratifying the Convention would thus not make much positive change for migrant workers around the world.
The workplace protections in the U.N. Convention that apply to illegal immigrants are unjust, as migrants surrender the right to work when they come to a country illegally. Article 26, which provides the right to unionize, applies to all migrant workers, but countries cannot be expected to grant illegal immigrants these powers. People who broke the law to come to the country do not deserve these rights. In fact, because they usually come to work, the workplace is the ideal place to discover illegal immigrants. Not only are they not allowed to unionize, but they are not allowed to get paid. Workplace rights do not need to be strengthened for legal migrants, and they should not be for illegal migrants.
The economic protections in the U.N. Convention are not only good for migrants themselves; they benefit all countries involved. Migrants move to countries with a lot of work available, but not enough workers. In a globalized world, migration is a market mechanism, and it is perhaps the most important aspect of globalization.
The growth of the world’s great economies has relied throughout history on the innovation and invention of immigrants. The new perspective brought by migrants leads to new breakthroughs, which are some of the most important benefits to receiving countries from migration. The exploitation of migrant workers that exists in the status quo creates tensions and prejudices that hamper this essential creative ability of migrants in the workplace.
Irene Khan shows that migrant protections are important for everybody involved: "When business exploits irregular migrants, it distorts the economy, creates social tensions, feeds racial prejudice and impedes prospects for regular migration. Protecting the rights of migrant workers -- regular and irregular -- makes good economic and political sense for all countries -- whether source, destination or transit." The U.N. Convention works to combat this exploitation, ensuring equal treatment for migrants in the workplace, and requiring, in many Articles (e.g. Article 17) covering various aspects of political life, that migrants are treated with respect. This will create an atmosphere in which migrants can contribute their invaluable input as well as their low-wage labor, to help boom the economies of the receiving countries that have not yet ratified the Convention.
Migration puts too heavy a burden on receiving countries, and it essentially means giving up on source countries. It is not a mechanism of the market, but rather an unfair system that takes money from taxpayers in certain countries and gives it to people in other countries. Not all aspects of migration are bad, but in addition to its workplace protections, the U.N. Convention would protect the right of immigrants to send money home. This would solidify the current unfair system (Article 47). Remittances are a short-term fix that come at a high cost for receiving and source countries. If migrants are not allowed to send home remittances, it is possible that the most skilled workers would stay in their home country and work to rebuild the economy for the long-term.
The supposed intangible benefit of “innovation and invention” is much less important than the real cost that these countries feel as a result from the unemployment and increased cost of health, education, and welfare systems that migrants cause.
Migrant rights is a major diplomatic issue between receiving and source countries, and ratifying the U.N. Convention would improve relations, clearing the way for states to work together to solve other international problems.
The diplomacy of western liberal states depends on the principle of rights for all, which is somewhat delegitimized by the unresolved issue of migrant rights. The International Federation for Human rights argues, “Non-ratification [of the U.N. Convention of migrant rights] brings the core values of the EU into question.” If receiving countries were to join source countries in strengthening protections for migrants, it would send a message that they are committed to freedom for all citizens of the world, and so it would improve their legitimacy in international diplomacy.
 International Federation for Human Rights, "Europe, It's Time to Ratify the Migrant Workers Convention," June 21, 2010, accessed June 27, http://www.fidh.org/Europe-it-s-time-to-ratify-the-Migrant-Workers.
Even seriously talking about full ratification of the U.N. Convention would actually cause international tensions. This is especially true in the European Union, which has tried to avoid the issue as much as possible. Stanley Pignal, of the Financial Times, calls migration “among the most sensitive topics in any of its 27 member states.” Since its formation when it allowed for internal migration, the European Union has tried to avoid this difficult issue. Many of the protections that are proposed are very unpopular there, as well as in the United States. These include particularly the right of family reunification, and any measures that clear a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants. Even broaching the topic of the Convention would cause diplomatic fights between many of the world’s leading countries, who must stay friendly in order to keep a state of peace.
Every state has different issues and problems related to migration. There is no monolithic economic and social crisis facing migrants around the globe. It is inappropriate, therefore, to call for all nations to ratify a piece of one-size-fits-all legislation, like the U.N. Convention. Instead, immigration policy and migrant rights need to be approached on a case-by-case, nation-by-nation basis.
The U.N. Convention would violate state sovereignty. Not all international law is necessarily bad, but these protections go too far, because they force a huge burden on certain nations, and not others. It is fair for an international body to say that all nations should treat their citizens with equality and respect, but it is not fair to say that certain countries should have to provide for many additional citizens from less-well-off states. It is not surprising that only source countries have ratified the Convention thus far; that is because those are the countries that would benefit from the changes, at the expense of those countries that are still holding out.
There is plenty of international law on the books, and it is legitimate when it protects rights that ought to be universal for the individual, no matter what country you are in. The right to have a family is not a Chilean right, or a German right, or a Malaysian right; it is a human right. As is the right to work without being harassed. The huge increase in migration over the past two decades shows that individual well-being has developed into a more important concern in the world today than state sovereignty. Migrant protections are moral because they reflect this change.
Because immigrants are frequently less well off financially, and they sometimes come to a new country illegally, they cost a lot for receiving countries. Therefore it is not practical for countries to grant them the equal access to health, education, and welfare systems, as they would have to under the U.N. Convention. Immigrants make heavy use of social welfare, and often overload public education systems, while frequently not pulling their weight in taxes. Illegal immigrants alone have already cost the United States “billions of taxpayer-funded dollars for medical services. Dozens of hospitals in Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California, have been forced to close” because they are required by law to provide free emergency room services to illegal immigrants. In addition, half a billion dollars each year are spent to keep illegal immigrant criminals in American prisons. The money spent to build and maintain schools for immigrant children, and to teach them detracts from the education of current schools, existing students, and taxpayers. This is unfair. Increasing social and economic protections and rights for migrants means increasing migration and increasing benefits that migrants receive from societies. This could be a burden that a state's welfare system is not capable of handling.
 Colorado Alliance for Immigration Reform, "Economic costs of legal and illegal immigration," accessed June 30, 2011, http://www.cairco.org/econ/econ.html.
While it is true that migrants are poorer than natives, or they would likely not be migrating to that country, it is not the case that they are costly for the receiving country. Immigrants come for a reason; to work. It therefore stands to reason that these people are going to be working and paying taxes. In the US in 2010 the labor force participation rate for foreign born men was 80.1%, much higher than among native born men. They are at the same time likely to be young, and therefore healthy so relatively less of a burden on healthcare, and in many cases leave their families behind so are not a burden on the education system. The typical immigrant in the United States and their descendants represent an $80,000 gain to the government.
 Daniel T. Griswold, “Immigration and the Welfare State”, CATO Journal, Vol.32, No.1, Winter 2012, http://www.cato.org/sites/cato.org/files/serials/files/cato-journal/2012... p.163
Increasing protections of migrant rights has the general effect of increasing migration. Article 8 of the U.N. Convention grants all workers the right to leave their state of origin. This implies an obligation of other states to receive them, and so it would protect increased migration. Further, the right to family reunification for documented migrants, found in Article 50, would also increase migration.
This increase in migration would be problematic in many countries. It could worsen overpopulation problems, increase tensions between ethnic and/or religious groups, and raise unemployment rates. The economies of many receiving countries are barely managing to fight unemployment in the status quo. If migrants receive further protection, they will take more jobs, making it harder for citizens to find employment. Everybody should have the opportunity to work in his home country, but the economic protection of migrants overcrowds receiving countries, driving up unemployment. In America, for example, between 40 and 50 percent of wage-loss among low-skilled workers is caused by immigration, and around 1,880,000 American workers lose their jobs every year because of immigration. In addition to unemployment problems, overcrowding can have a variety of negative consequences affecting air pollution, traffic, sanitation, and quality of life. So, why are migrants deserving of "protection"? It should be the other way around: the national workers of a state deserve protection from migrant workers and the jobs they are taking.
 Colorado Alliance for Immigration Reform. "Economic costs of legal and illegal immigration." Accessed June 30, 2011. http://www.cairco.org/econ/econ.html.
The effect of migration on unemployment is actually positive: it provides cheap labor for receiving countries, and lowers the supply of labor in source countries where employers can often not afford to pay sufficient wages to their workers. The claim that immigrants take jobs away from native citizens is unfounded. In the United States, for example, visa applications for skilled foreign workers are extremely difficult to receive and are limited to a small number of people. Foreign students at U.S. universities even need special authorization to work a summer job. Immigrants cannot undercut U.S. workers wages, taking their job away for less money, because foreign workers must be paid a minimum salary, mandated by law. Even illegal immigrants who do not follow these regulations tend to take very-low-paying jobs that are unwanted by U.S. citizens and that would not otherwise exist.
A state-by-state approach would allow each state to pass a law that fits its needs, particularly those of protecting its national identity, which is a concern international law cannot approach. Maintaining an original ethnic and cultural structure is important to many states, especially those that are populated by one ethnic group. Is Israel, for example, wrong to term itself a "Jewish state"? There is nothing inherently wrong with its efforts to maintain this identity, even if that effort constrains the expansion of migrant rights.
While every state may have different issues and problems, the human rights of individuals must be protected by all of them. States may choose to protect their national identity and tradition through museums and festivals and other cultural institutions; it is not necessary that they keep migrants out, or suppress those who have already immigrated.
States have the right to deport people who entered the country illegally, and the U.N. Convention would make that more difficult. The Convention gives extensive rights even to illegal immigrants, especially in the realm of the justice system (Article 17). Indeed, migrant activists often see deportation policies as immoral. Yet, a state has every right to arrest, imprison, and deport illegal immigrants. When an illegal immigrant commits a crime (in addition to unlawful entry into the country), states are often forced to pay to keep the criminal in prison, rather than deport him. The United States loses half-a-billion dollars each year this way. Ultimately it's a matter of enforcing national laws, sovereignty, and the integrity of a nation's welfare-system.
 Colorado Alliance for Immigration Reform. "Economic costs of legal and illegal immigration." Accessed June 30, 2011. http://www.cairco.org/econ/econ.html.
It is in the nature of international treaties that they represent a compromise, if it was not a compromise receiving nations were willing to make they should have made changes during the negotiations. However the convention does not impose a heavy burden on states wishing to deport migrants, it simply ensures that their human rights are upheld. Suggestions such as “Migrant workers… who are subjected to any form of detention or imprisonment… shall enjoy the same rights as nationals of those States who are in the same situation.” (Article 17) is simply asking for equality for all rather than allowing the current inequality to continue.