International Body to Investigate Immigration Detention in U.S.

Throughout this week, representatives from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) will visit immigration detention centers in Arizona and Texas, as part of a fact-finding mission to examine U.S. immigration detention conditions and due process rights. The ACLU of Arizona and the ACLU of Texas along with local grassroots organizations will be accompanying and coordinating local meetings in their respective states. The visit, at the invitation of the Obama administration, marks a continued effort on the part of immigrants and human rights advocates who have been working to address egregious human rights violations in U.S. immigration detention system.

The commission, a regional human rights body headquartered in Washington, D.C., and a part of the Organization of American States, regularly investigates allegations of human rights violations in the western hemisphere through general hearings and on-site visits and fact-finding missions in countries (including the United States). At the end of this year, the commission will publish a report sharing its findings, and then collaborate with the U.S. government to implement recommendations.

As you may know, the ACLU has been working hard on this issue. Last week, along with Human Rights Watch and other organizations, we sent a letter to the commission and highlighted our serious concerns regarding women's access to reproductive and medical care in immigration detention. The ACLU National Prison Project and Immigrants Rights Project have worked to ensure the humane treatment of incarcerated immigrants and the ACLU co-sponsored a recent hill briefing on the impact of immigration enforcement on women with a focus on detention conditions. In December 2007, the ACLU of Massachusetts issued "Detention and Deportation in the Age of ICE ," a report documenting the experience of 40 detained persons through the system of detention set up by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and recently briefed the Commission with materials about the retaliatory transfers of immigrants. The commission has also taken up this issue before: In October 2008, a hearing was held concerning due process violations in the U.S.' enforcement of immigrant detention and deportation policies. (Listen to the October 2008 hearing online .)

Despite the Obama administration's concerted effort to facilitate the visit of the commission and give it full access to immigration detention facilities, Sheriff Joe Arpaio (who is under DOJ investigation ) has already denied members of the commission access to certain Arizona jail facilities. Sheriff Arpaio's actions raise questions about safe and humane conditions in those jails. Alessandra Soler Meetze, Executive Director of the ACLU of Arizona stated Monday:

The visit of the IACHR was a critical opportunity to shed light on conditions at [Maricopa County Sheriff's Office] jails…There's no doubt that Arpaio's decision to use law enforcement resources to enforce civil immigration laws has contributed to serious overcrowding and even greater problems related to the health and safety of prisoners. As recently found by the federal court, thousands of detainees are still being denied adequate services in basic areas, including medical and mental health care.

Sheriff Arpaio's move to block access is reminiscent of a larger pattern under the Bush administration of blocking international experts from access to controversial detention facilities. In 2007, the U.N. independent expert on the rights of migrants was denied access to Hutto , the notorious family detention facility in Texas as well as a detention center in Monmouth County, New Jersey. Similarly, in 2005, four U.N. human rights experts issued a statement rebuking the Bush administration for not allowing full access to detainees at the Guantánamo Bay prison.

We hope that the Obama administration will address the egregious human rights violations in the immigration detention system and distance itself from Bush administration policies. The Obama administration has already pledged greater transparency and accountability, and this visit represents an important step forward in achieving those goals. Once the commission's findings are issued, the Obama administration must incorporate the recommendations into domestic policies on immigration detention to adequately reform immigration detention.

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Vic Livingston


ACLU inches closer toward recognizing the reality of DOMESTIC TORTURE and extrajudicial targeting and punishment nationwide...

...a "torture matrix" devised and overseen by a "multi-agency coordinated action program" that has co-opted local law enforcement with a GPS-activated civilian vigilante army of thousands.

Please, ACLU officials and members, read this article, written by a longtime journalist and a victim of the devolution of the rule of law in America:

Daniel S. Goldman

When the Office of the Inspector General of the Justice Department investigated detention abuses in two facilities in the NY/NJ area, the Metropolitan Detention Center and the Passaic County Jail, there were some positive repercussions, but not nearly enough, as evidenced by the need for this formal investigation nearly 6 years later. Those two facilities were the tip of the iceberg, in just one metropolitan area and immigrant advocates, especially those who work with detained immigrants, know these abuses occur wherever immigrants are held, in county jails with lucrative federal contracts, in private facilities and in federally-run detention centers.

Unless and until deportation proceedings are moved out of the administrative law field and Immigration Judges are given full authority under Article III of the U.S. Constitution and with it, independence from the Attorney General, detained immigrants will continue to fall through the cracks of our legal system and continue to be the targets of unscrupulous immigration attorneys.

I encourage the ACLU, with all the resources at its disposal, to do what no other community or regional based immigrant rights advocacy organization can do. Push for impact litigation that ensures that immigrants subject to deportation hearings are given the same rights as criminal defendants under Gideon v. Wainwright. In more than a few cases, those deported to their country of origin face penalties ranging from detention to torture to death, because of their deportation and/or political positions.

Until qualified attorneys can bring these routine abuses to light, detained immigrants will continue to face official government abuse from the shadows of our immigration detention and deportation system.

dr. evil

It is time for the United Nations and other civilized nations to stand up and tell the U.S. Congress and government officials to follow international laws. If the U.S. can prosecute former Kosovo presdient Slobodan Milosevic for arbitrary exile of ethnic Albanians, then why can't International Criminal Court criminally prosecute members of U.S. Congress who introduced 1996 Anti-terrorism and Immigration Reform laws. Deporting people without due process, indefinite "civil" incarceration and tearing families apart is a serious violation of human rights and international laws.


If you break the law you pay the price.

Not all Ilegal Immigrants come to this country to escape torture or death. They come to work to send money back to thier families.

President Obama will not do anything. When (and hopefully not) this new health care comes to the US we will be deciding when our parents, babies (born with defects), mentally disabled people, people with life ending disease, will have to die. I am more worried about that than the story above.

Say what you want but I for one will be taking care of my own. Maybe it is time for the Ilegal Immigrant to look after themselves and for the advocates to stop blaming every one else.


Maggie, if you want to see people punished for breaking the laws. Then why not have the same standard for the U.S. government officials. Under your own argument, many members of the U.S. Congress and government agents belong in prison as they have not just violated the Constitution and treaty obligations of this country but have committed serious crimes against humanity and broken various international laws under their immigration policies. If the United States does not follow international laws it would not only send a huge distrust towards American authorities but send a very dangerous message that United States only follows favorable ruling under national or international laws. This is especially, when we are looking for allies everywhere around the world.

People who comm...

First off, they are illegal and they have the audacity to commit crime? I don't commit crime and do things by the book. Why can't an illegal? Why can't the ACLU fight for the rights of Americans who lose their lives everyday due to illegals who murder and kill?

Isn't our civil liberties being taken away for allowing this?


I have no problems with not breaking the law so I don't hold pity for those who come here illegally, break even more laws, and actually have people fighting for their rights?

Send em back where they belong!


In 2001 the Consulate General of the People's Republic of China sent the following response to the U.S. government re it's immigration policies:

"This is to advise that Chinese citizens who entered the United States legally as permanent residents, especially those who were children when they came, are not permitted to enter the People's Republic of China as a deportee.

For those Chinese citizens who have finished serving their sentences in the correctional institutes, it is unfair to continue detaining them only because they are not United States citizens but foreigners. Especially those who were little children when they legally immigrated to this country with his family, and were brought up and educated here in the United States.

The Consulate General urges that they should be released from INS's custody and stay together with their families in the United States, otherwise, it is against the spirit of humanitarianism and human rights, which the United States always advocates."

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