Despite the universalistic promise of a human rights discourse focused on personhood as the source of entitlement, the persistence of national sovereignty as an organising concept means that rights-respecting governments need not treat citizens and non-citizens equally. At the same time, the development of the human rights regime has prevented States from entirely instrumentalising non-citizens, as reflected in the courts’ application of domestic constitutional norms and international human rights principles to the figure of the territorially present non-citizen. The figure of the irregular migrant, however, increasingly challenges this compromise in both the United States and Europe by highlighting the limits of the State’s ability to maintain sovereign control over its territory, but in the form of a person endowed with dignity and therefore deserving of respect regardless of status.