A survivor of domestic abuse who feared for her life, Maria* fled her home in Guatemala to seek refuge in the United States. Over the course of her determined attempt to find a life free of violence, Maria was raped and beaten by her coyote guide, thrown to the ground by a U.S. border patrol officer, jailed with no food or water and returned to Mexico. She crossed the border four times before being detained at a facility in Arizona, where she is waiting for a verdict on her application for asylum as a survivor of domestic violence. When we met Maria in June of 2010 she was being held, indefinitely, in a facility fit for criminal prisoners.
Today, the U.S. is in a unique position. How it responds to this crisis will have an enormous impact on how other countries treat asylum seekers. At the same time, there is much that the U.S. could learn from other detention models being used internationally.
The Migrant Rights and Justice Program is working to shape and reform international policy on detention at the highest levels. In collaboration with international partners, we are raising awareness about immigration detention and pushing for reforms that would institutionalize policies and procedures to protect vulnerable migrant women and children seeking asylum.
The newest UN Committee on the Rights of the Child's report concerns the rights of immigrant children. In partnership with the International Detention Coalition, the Women's Refugee Commission participated in the Committeeâ€™s Day of General Discussion in September 2012 to call attention to the plight of children who had been detained. Participants included WRC 2012 Voices of Courage honoree, Rim Tekie. The children's stories, combined with tireless advocacy by our Migrant Rights and Justice team among other organizations, has culminated in the most powerful recommendation the Committee has made to date: calling for all states to cease the detention of children based on their or their parents' immigration status.
*Names have been changed to protect women and children