While there is a lack of human rights literature that specifically deals with or involves the family unit, the United Nations recognizes that “…family is the basic unit of society” (UN, n.d.). As such, there is an undeniable connection between the status of immigrant and refugee families and how the United States deals with their human rights in a variety of ways. Issues such as FGM, deportation of undocumented immigrants that splits the family between those with and without citizenship or documents, longtime detention of family members, sex trafficking, and other pressing human rights issues all have significant deleterious effects on families in this country. While much of the conversation revolves around rights and obligations for the individual as well as for the community, there is very little in the way of specific family references in the human rights literature.
Given that the UDHR focuses on individual and state actors, it is understandable that there is this gap in the research regarding how human rights issues specifically affect families. However, there needs to be a significantly deeper understanding of these issues if we are to be able to truly support immigrant and refugee families to thrive and flourish in the United States. Some questions that need to be answered are: How do families have a unique lens on their situations? Does the family structure provide a protective factor for its members? How do women’s and children’s issues play out in this arena? Perhaps the most pressing need for further research concerns the issue of how mixed-status immigrant families cope with the uncertainty regarding living with different levels of documentation and legal status within the same family.
True Thao, MSW, LICSW discusses his perspectives on human rights and basic values such as respect and equality (1:45-3:44).