U.N. Independent Expert on Rights of Migrants Begins Fact-Finding Mission in United States

April 30, 2007 12:00 am

CONTACT: media@aclu.org

Official Visit Includes a Tour of the US-Mexico Border and Immigrant Detention Facilities

SAN DIEGO – The American Civil Liberties Union today welcomed the official fact-finding visit to the United States by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Migrants. The ACLU is among the select groups and individuals that will be meeting with the Special Rapporteur over the next three weeks to testify about the conditions of immigrants and migrants living in the United States.

“The visit of the Special Rapporteur is a critical opportunity to shed light on human rights violations of migrants in the United States,” said Jamil Dakwar, Advocacy Director for the ACLU Human Rights Program. “All persons deserve to be treated with dignity, regardless of their immigration status.”

The Special Rapporteur, Jorge Bustamante, is conducting his three-week fact-finding mission at the invitation of the United States government, and will travel across the country to meet with dozens of human rights and immigrants groups. The Special Rapporteur is an independent expert appointed by the U.N. Human Rights Council with the mandate to monitor, advise and publicly report on human rights situations in specific countries, including the United States, and on human rights violations worldwide.

Together with its affiliate offices and other organizations, the ACLU will organize public hearings and meetings for the Special Rapporteur with victims of human rights violations and national and local authorities. The Special Rapporteur’s official visit includes tours of the US.-Mexico border in Arizona and immigrant detention facilities in Arizona, Texas and New Jersey. The ACLU will document the visit with blog posts, podcasts, video and news updates at www.aclu.org/humanrightsofmigrants.

The Special Rapporteur begins his visit with a stop in San Diego today where he will meet with the ACLU of San Diego, the American Friends Service Committee and other groups to discuss local ordinances that punish landlords and employers who do business with undocumented immigrants. According to the ACLU, these ordinances have been shown to increase discrimination against people who look or sound foreign, especially Latinos, regardless of their immigration status. The ACLU has successfully fought back against several anti-immigrant ordinances across the country, and a federal judge is set to rule this summer on the legality of one such ordinance in Hazleton, Pennsylvania. More information on that case is online at www.aclu.org/hazleton.

“What we need is realistic immigration reform, not discriminatory policies that divide communities and tear apart families,” said Kevin Keenan, Executive Director of the ACLU of San Diego and Imperial Counties.

The Special Rapporteur will also review the conditions of detention facilities where many immigrant families, including refugees from war-torn countries, are being held as their cases wind through the federal immigration system. Included in the official visit are tours of three such facilities: the Florence Service Processing Center in Florence, Arizona on May 4, the T. Don Hutto Detention Center in Taylor, Texas on May 7, and Monmouth County Jail in Freehold, New Jersey on May 14. Earlier this year, the ACLU filed a federal challenge on behalf of ten children detained at the Hutto facility, charging that the children are subject to inhumane treatment. The case has yet to go to trial, but a U.S. district judge has said that the ACLU is “highly likely to prevail” on its claims that the detention of children at Hutto violates U.S. law. More information on Hutto and other facilities is online at www.aclu.org/hutto.

The ACLU has also worked on other issues that will be reviewed by the Special Rapporteur, including workers’ rights, immigrant raids and the trafficking of women and children. Last week, the ACLU of Northern California filed a lawsuit on behalf of a six-year-old boy who was detained during an immigration raid, despite the fact that he is a U.S. citizen.

Other states that will be visited by the Special Rapporteur include Georgia, New York and Florida. The Special Rapporteur will conclude the fact-finding mission in Washington, DC from May 15 through May 18, where he will meet with non-governmental organizations and federal officials. A full agenda of the Special Rapporteur visit is online at www.aclu.org/humanrightsofmigrants.

The Special Rapporteur will use the information gathered during this fact-finding mission to issue an official report to the Human Rights Council. The conclusions and recommendations provided by the Special Rapporteur may be used to apply pressure on the U.S. government to rectify any human rights violations.

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