WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, human rights groups including the National Immigration Forum, the Rights Working Group, the Immigration Clinic at the University of Texas School of Law, and the Women’s Refugee Commission, together with the Transnational Legal Clinic of the University of Pennsylvania Law School, will present testimony about human rights violations in the U.S. government’s immigration enforcement and detention systems before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR). Established by the United States and all countries in the Western hemisphere in 1959, the IACHR is authorized to examine allegations of human rights violations by countries including the U.S. The hearing will take place at 9:00am in the offices of the IACHR at 1889 F Street, NW, Washington, DC, and the U.S. government will send representatives to respond to allegations of abuse.
The hearing follows an IACHR report released last week entitled “Report on Immigration in the United States: Detention and Due Process,” which criticizes current U.S. immigrant detention and deportation policies. The report finds that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security is increasingly detaining alleged violators of civil immigration law, favoring a penal incarceration model instead of using detention only in exceptional cases as international law requires. The IACHR expressed great concern with the U.S. government’s over-reliance on public safety arguments when detaining vast numbers of immigrants who pose no threat to public safety.“The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights found that when immigration detention is used, it is frequently outsourced to private contractors, is not truly civil in nature, and the system lacks sufficient oversight and protections to ensure due process rights. Federal detention standards designed to ensure humane treatment are not adequately enforced resulting in fundamental human rights violations,” said Sarah Paoletti, Director of the Transnational Legal Clinic at the University of Pennsylvania Law School.
The IACHR also expressed grave concerns about U.S. immigration enforcement programs and policies that funnel hundreds of thousands of individuals into immigration detention and deportation. Specifically, the IACHR was disturbed by the great increase in the number of partnerships between the federal government and local and state law enforcement for purposes of enforcing civil immigration laws, found that the U.S. has inadequate oversight and accountability measures to ensure that state and local partners do not engage in racial profiling, and called for the termination of the widely criticized 287(g) program.
“The U.S. government continues to assert that it has implemented changes to the immigration enforcement and detention programs that will safeguard human and civil rights, but the government’s reforms are neither sweeping nor adequate, as the government claims,” said Brittney Nystrom, Director of Policy and Legal Affairs at the National Immigration Forum.
Witnesses for today’s hearing include the Walter Tejada, member of the Arlington (Virginia) County Board, which voted to opt-out of the federal government’s Secure Communities Initiative last fall, and Robert Cote whose wife was arrested, detained and separated from her small children by local police and placed into deportation proceedings when she provided language interpretation for her sister after a domestic violence incident.