In a new report, "In Hostile Terrain: Human Rights Violations in Immigration Enforcement in the U.S. Southwest," the organization highlights "systemic failures of federal, state and local authorities to enforce immigration laws" equitably and without racial and ethnic profiling. The Report is based on an intensive study of conditions in Arizona and Texas.
Communities living along the U.S.-Mexico border, particularly Latinos, individuals perceived to be of Latino origin and Indigenous communities, are disproportionately affected by a range of immigration control measures, resulting in a pattern of human rights violations, Amnesty reports.
Among the many findings, the report illustrates that "The United States is failing in its obligations to respect immigrants' right to life, ensure access to justice for immigrant survivors of crime, particularly women and children, and recognize the border crossing rights of indigenous communities."
The Report charges that, according to the U.S. government, "there are approximately 14,500-17,500 people trafficked into the United States each year for labor or sexual exploitation. However, it says, "Barriers caused by breakdowns in the system that identify immigrant survivors of trafficking leave many without any relief from immigration detention and deportation. Of the 5,000 T-visas available annually to survivors of human trafficking, statistics show that only six percent are actually utilized."
A woman named Carolina is a case in point. Carolina is a Honduran native who was brought to the United States after being repeatedly sold for sex, beaten and drugged, was held for six months in detention in Pearsall, Texas, after immigration agents found her in the trunk of a car crossing the U.S.-Mexico border. While detained, Carolina was denied certification as a trafficking victim because she had originally wanted to come to the United States voluntarily before she was sold into sexual slavery and trafficked into the country.
It was only after a review of her case in February 2011, more than two years after she was discovered in a car trunk, that Carolina's trafficking victim visa was approved, allowing her to remain in the United States and become eligible for mental health and support services. "Now, I can finally begin to heal," Carolina said following her release from detention.
"The culture around immigration in the United States has created a perfect storm -- survivors of trafficking and other crimes like domestic violence are increasingly seen as criminals rather than as victims," said attorney Justin Mazzola, Amnesty International researcher and lead author of the report.