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Hastings Race and Poverty Law Journal

Abstract

As the economic gap between rich and poor countries continues to grow, those living in poor countries migrate to richer countries to survive. Migrants who succeed in completing the journey to receiving countries are often subjected to human rights violations in the workplace. More particularly, the human rights violations encompass violations of the right to organize in order to be free from exploitative conditions, the right to equality before the law, and the right to legal recourse. This article will provide migrant rights advocates in the U.S. with international legal standards that can be used to address domestic human rights abuses. The authors will provide a guide to applicable international law and suggest how these standards may be used to protect migrant workers. The first part of the article describes the working conditions undocumented migrants endure in the United States, highlighting recent human rights violations. The article then discusses Hoffman Plastics Compounds, Inc. v. National Labor Relations Board, 535 U.S. 137, decided by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2002, which limited the remedies available to undocumented workers for violations of workplace rights, and its impact on court decisions that deal with areas of the National Labor Relations Act, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, availability of certain causes of action, discovery requests, personal injury and tort cases, and disability law. While the Hoffman decision was based on the compatibility of labor and immigration law, neither the Court nor the briefs submitted addressed international legal obligations and binding treaty law that might have affected the outcome-a disturbing fact given the outcome and repercussions of the case, and given that there is international law bearing directly on the point.

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