17 May 2007: The Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, Jorge Bustamante, issued the following statement today:
The Special Rapporteur wishes to thank the Government of the United States of America for their official invitation to visit their country and their cooperation during his 18 day visit to the United States from 30 April to 17 May 2007. In the course of his visit, the Special Rapporteur met with senior government officials in charge of migration and human rights issues at the federal level.
While in the country, the Special Rapporteur traveled to the border areas in California and Arizona, witnessing firsthand the operations of the U.S. Border Patrol and Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
He also met with migrants in South Florida, Atlanta, Georgia, New York and Washington DC and had the opportunity to speak with and hear from representatives of the civil society working on the human rights of migrants at the local, state, regional, and national level.
The Special Rapporteur had the opportunity to visit the Florence Detention Center in Florence, Arizona, taking note of the conditions of migrant detainees in that facility.
He was disappointed, however, that his scheduled and approved visits to the Hutto Detention Center in Texas and the Monmouth Detention Center in New Jersey were cancelled with no explanation.
His visit has shed light on a range of concerns regarding the rights of 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 Special Rapporteur especially noted his concern that there is no centralized system in the United States to obtain information regarding those arrested by immigration officials or where individuals are detained. Families may spend prolonged periods without information as to the whereabouts of detained relatives. Transfers of individuals in custody also may occur without notice to families or attorneys and may result in detention in remote locations, far from families and access to legal support.
Mandatory detention of individuals who are neither a flight risk nor a danger to the community causes family separation and economic, emotional, psychological hardship for family members, particularly children.
The Special Rapporteur further noted that accompanied and unaccompanied children are temporarily detained in adult detention facilities which do not adequately protect the rights of child migrants.
The Special Rapporteur noted that migrants undergoing removal proceedings do not have the right to appointed legal Counsel and must therefore represent themselves in complex legal proceedings.
The Special Rapporteur also had the opportunity to hear the testimonies of many migrant workers affected by the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, including guest workers and migrant workers. Human rights issues raised with the Special Rapporteur included the lack of adequate housing available to migrant workers, inhuman and degrading treatment of workers, disparate treatment of workers based on ethnic or national origin, coerced labor and the lack of a fair living wage for all workers. Of particular concern are migrant workers who were being exploited by subcontractors of US government offices in charge of cleaning and repairing tasks. These US government offices ignore labor grievances about violations of migrants? labor rights including wage theft, and they deny their responsibility and pass it on to the subcontractors.
The Special Rapporteur encourages the United States Governement:
- to ensure that domestic laws and immigration enforcement activities are consistent with its international obligations to protect the rights of migrant workers within the context of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), the Convention Against Torture and All Forms of Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment (CAT), the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD), and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR).
- The Special Rapporteur encourages the United States Government to sign and ratify the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families
The Special Rapporteur calls upon the U.S. authorities to promote and enforce national policies and practices that protect human rights and public welfare of migrants. He noted that an over-reliance on, and delegation of authority to local level law enforcement may compromise the ability of the U.S. government to effectively address issues affecting migrants, and to comply with its human rights obligations under International Law.
The Special Rapporteur will provide the results of his fact finding mission and his recommendations in his report to the Human Rights Council.
Professor Jorge Bustamante was appointed Special Rapporteur in August 2005. The mandate on the human rights of migrants was established in 1999 to examine ways and means to overcome the obstacles existing to the full and effective protection of the human rights of migrants, including obstacles and difficulties for the return of migrants who are undocumented or in an irregular situation.