Transfers of Immigration Detainees Violate Human Rights, ACLU Tells Inter-American Commission On Human Rights

July 21, 2009 12:00 am

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BOSTON – Transfers from Massachusetts to remote immigration detention centers in other states interfere with detainees’ legal rights, and have a devastating impact on immigrants and the families they leave behind. That is what the ACLU of Massachusetts has told the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) in testimony submitted during the agency’s visit this week to the United States.

Earlier this year, President Obama invited the IACHR, the human rights monitoring body for the Organization of American States, to tour some of the country’s largest immigration detention facilities, in Alabama, Arizona, and Texas. The ACLU of Massachusetts has submitted testimony documenting the impact on the thousands of immigrants who are arrested in our state and sent to those facilities every year. The most blatant example of this practice happened after the raid on the Michael Bianco factory in New Bedford in 2007, when ICE transferred approximately 200 of the immigrants it arrested to detention centers in Texas and New Mexico within 48 hours.

The ACLU of Massachusetts’ December 2008 report “Detention and Deportation in the Age of ICE” ( also found that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) transferred detainees when they spoke out about detention conditions or abuse at any facility. The report found that these retaliatory transfers silence complaints and punish those who assert their rights.

“While the transfers themselves are highly problematic, moving detainees as a way of silencing complaints and retaliating against those who report abuse is an even greater violation of basic rights protected by the U.S. Constitution and the American Convention on Human Rights,” said ACLU of Massachusetts staff attorney Laura Rótolo.

In 2007, ICE detained more than 311,000 immigrants, who were held in any of over 400 state, local, federal and private detention facilities around the country. ICE transferred 261,910 detainees — more than 84 percent — from one detention facility to another.

“We have seen firsthand that moving immigration detainees to remote facilities in other states has a devastating effect as immigrants lose access to their families, lawyers and needed resources to fight their court cases,” said ACLU of Massachusetts executive director Carol Rose.

“We hope the IACHR’s investigation and report will spur the U.S. into complying with our own Constitution as well as international obligations,” said Rótolo. “No other country in the Americas has such a large number of detained immigrants, and it is certainly an issue deserving of international attention.”

The Inter-American Commission will investigate immigration detention conditions and issue a report analyzing whether the United States is in compliance with its obligations under the Charter of the Organization of American States and the American Convention on Human Rights.

For more information about the state of immigration detention in Massachusetts, visit:

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