The rights and movement of people crossing international borders remain inadequately governed and incompletely protected by a fragmented patchwork of institutions and norms. In recent years, debates regarding migration law and practice globally have been focused on subcategories of migrants, such as refugees, or on particular migration contexts, such as migration as a result of crisis or climate change. In response, a transnational initiative housed at the Georgetown University Law Center has drafted a soft-law bill of rights — the International Migrants Bill of Rights (IMBR) — that seeks to elaborate the law protecting all migrants, regardless of the cause of their movement across an international border. The bill draws its content from human rights, refugee, and labor law, among other areas, and is drafted to be a comprehensive and declarative tool that articulates a core set of rights to protect migrants and to apply in the migration context.
This article articulates how such a tool could be used to promote the recognition and protection of the rights of all migrants, in law and in practice. It argues that a soft-law bill of rights could be leveraged to fill significant gaps and promote an improved normative and institutional infrastructure that better protects all migrants worldwide. Section I provides a brief overview of the gap that a soft-law bill of rights can address. Section II provides a brief overview of the history and content of the bill of rights and IMBR Initiative. Section III describes, specifically, how making use of a soft-law bill of rights stands to improve the recognition and protection of fundamental rights that protect all migrants — and how soft law can help fill specific protection gaps.