Despite the ambivalent history of the domestic application of human rights in the United States, human rights increasingly offer important resources for American grassroots activists. Within the constraints of U.S. policy toward human rights, they provide social movements a kind of global law “from below”: a form of cosmopolitan law that subalterns can use to challenge their subordinate position. Using a case study from New York City, we argue that in certain contexts, human rights can provide important political resources to U.S. social movements. However, they do so in a diffuse way far from the formal system of human rights law. Instead, activists adopt some of the broader social justice ideas and strategies embedded within human rights practice.