The United Nations released a report this month scolding the United States for disregarding international law and violating the human rights of migrants.
Jorge Bustamante, Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, noted serious concerns about deportation and detention policies, especially in light of the fact that cases of indefinite detention were common. Other concerns included lack of due process, imprisonment of children and infants, imprisoned migrants being subjected to solitary confinement, possible sleep deprivation, and exposure to extreme heat and cold.
"The United States lacks a clear, consistent, long-term strategy to improve respect for the human rights of migrants," Bustamante’s report stated.
The report was written after a controversial fact-finding mission in the United States last April. The visit was arranged to investigate concerns regarding the human rights of the country’s 37.5 million migrants, including arbitrary detention, separation of families, substandard conditions of detention, procedural violations in criminal and administrative law proceedings, racial and ethnic discrimination, arbitrary and collective expulsions and violations of children’s and women’s rights.
“The report makes it clear that the U.S. government’s laws, policies and practices are the main culprit for the persistent abusive treatment and persecution experienced by immigrant families, workers and communities,” stated Colin Rajah, director of the National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights’ (NNIRR)International Migrant Rights and Global Justice Program. “The findings are an indictment of U.S. immigration laws and enforcement and reflect the complaints we have documented from around the country.”
The NNIR released a report, “Over-Raided, Under Seige: U.S. Immigrations Laws and Enforcement Destroy the Rights of Migrants, on Jan. 18 which documented over 100 stories of human rights abuses which lend evidence to the "humanitarian crisis" immigrants are faced with in the United States.
According to Jennifer Turner, who gave a statement on March 7 to the Human Rights Council on behalf of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the Department of Homeland Security detained 322,000 migrants in 2007.
“The growth in immigration detention has resulted in highly problematic conditions of confinement, such as grossly inadequate health care, physical and sexual abuse, overcrowding, discrimination, and racism,” said Turner.
Something to hide?
Bustamante met resistance from U.S. officials on the last day of his trip to the U.S. when he was denied access to detention facilities in Texas and New Jersey. In a letter to U.S. ambassador to the U.N., Zalmay Khalilzad, Bustamante stated: "Both these visits were part of the approved itinerary agreed with the government of the United States. In neither case has the [U.S.] Government consulted me on the changes, or provided any explanation of the necessity for such cancellation."
In an interview with The New York Times Bustamante stated, “My interpretation is that someone in the United States government is not proud of what is happening in those centers.”
While a State Department official confirmed that the visitations were arranged by the government, Monmouth County (NJ) sheriff Joseph W. Oxley accused Bustamante of canceling the visit—something the UN investigator has flatly denied. The visit to T. Don Hutto immigration detention prison in Texas, run by Corrections Corp. of America (the country’s largest for-profit prison system), was allegedly cancelled due to a lawsuit against the facility pending at the time—though a spokesperson for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency stated the visit had never been approved.
The lawsuit lawsuit, filed by the ACLU on behalf of 26 immigrant children detained at the prison with their parents, was settled in August. The ACLU described it as a “landmark settlement”, which improved conditions for children and their families. Some improvements include: children are no longer required to wear prison uniforms, they are no longer threatened by guards to be separated from their families, and they are now afforded privacy curtains for when they use the bathroom.
All of the children previously detained were released days before the settlement was reached.