Organization of American States gives US failing grade on treatment of immigrants

world | Mar 17, 2011 | By Kent Paterson

In a new report, the Washington, D.C.-based Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) of the Organization of American States lays out a detailed critique of US policies and practices that involve the detention of undocumented migrants as well as the growing trend of local and state police enforcing federal immigration laws.

In its report, the IACHR expresses serious concerns about due process, home and workplace raids, racial profiling, immigration sweeps, medical care in detention facilities, and the lack of legal representation for unaccompanied children and persons with mental disabilities.

"For those cases in which detention is strictly necessary, the Inter-American Commission is troubled by the lack of a genuinely civil detention system with general conditions that are commensurate with human dignity and human treatment",” the IACHR contended in a press statement announcing the release of the report this week.

The IACHR also declared it was “disturbed by the fact that the management and personal care of immigration detainees is frequently outsourced to private contractors,” but that little information is available to know whether adequate government supervision of such for-profit outfits exists.

In a 162-page document, the IACHR cites academic studies, investigative news stories, US government observations, personal testimonies and its own sources of information to draw a number of conclusions and make recommendations to Washington.

The report was drafted within a framework of analyzing US obligations with the American Convention on Human Rights, the International Convent on Civil and Political Rights, the Convention on Refugees and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, among other international agreements relevant to the detention and legal processing of immigrants.

Part of the report was based on a visit by an IACHR delegation to six immigrant detention facilities in Arizona and Texas in 2009. However, the IACHR sharply criticized the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office in Arizona for not allowing human rights investigators to enter the Maricopa County Jail during the delegation's Southwestern tour.

"The IACHR must again go on record to underscore its profound concern over the federal government's lack of authority of grant a visit to immigrant  detainees who are accused of violations of federal immigration law," the IACHR said.

Barring the delegation, the IACHR said, flew in the face of a "universally accepted principle" of international law that governments must not "invoke internal rules as a pretext for non-compliance.".A good portion of the report is devoted to the circumstances of immigration law enforcement in Arizona.

On a positive note, the IACHR thanked the Obama administration for its cooperation in helping prepare the report, and noted-with some serious reservations-improvements in Immigration and Customs Enforcement's stated goal of going after the most serious criminal offenders.

The new report came as immigration controversies continued to swirl in places like New Mexico and Utah, and on the eve of a visit by US President Barack Obama to Latin America.

Indeed, the Mexican and Latin American press gave a fair amount of initial coverage to the IACHR's report, especially to stories by the EFE and AFP
news agencies. A typical headline read: IACHR: Mistreatment of Migrants Continues in US under Obama. ”

In a follow-up to its report, the IACHR has scheduled a March 29 hearing in Washington, D.C. The IACHR's full report can be viewed at the following website:



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