Full Report of Jorge Bustamante to UN Human Rights Council

The report from the Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Migrants, Jorge Bustamante, on his Mission to the United States (30 April-18 May 2007) is dated March 7, 2008.

The Texas Civil Rights Review has converted the report to pdf format (350kb); click here to download.

Pasted below is the summary. We will continue to excerpt and comment as time permits. Please stay tuned.–gm


Summary

The present report is submitted in accordance with resolution 2001/52 of the Commission
on Human Rights following the official visit of the Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants to the United States of America (the United States) between 30 April and 18 May 2007.

The purpose of the mission was to examine and report on the status of the human rights of migrants living in the United States. For the purposes of this report, “migrants” refers to all non-citizens living in the United States, including, among others, undocumented non-citizens and non-citizens with legal permission to remain in the country, such as legal permanent residents, work visa holders, and persons with refugee status. The Special Rapporteur thanks the Government of the United States for extending an invitation for him to conduct such a mission.

The Special Rapporteur was disappointed, however, that his scheduled and approved visits to the Hutto Detention Center in Texas and the Monmouth detention centre in New Jersey were subsequently cancelled without satisfactory explanation.

While noting the Government’s interest in addressing some of the problems related to the
human rights of migrants, the Special Rapporteur has serious concerns about the situation of migrants in the country, especially in the context of specific aspects of deportation and detention policies, and with regard to specific groups such as migrant workers in New Orleans and the Gulf Coast in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, migrant farm workers, and migrants in detention facilities.

The Special Rapporteur wishes to highlight the fact that cases of indefinite detention – even of migrants fleeing adverse conditions in their home countries – were not uncommon according to testimonies he received. The Special Rapporteur learned from human rights advocates about the lack of due process for non-citizens in United States deportation proceedings and their ability to challenge the legality or length of their detention; as well as about the conditions of detained asylum-seekers, long-term permanent residents and parents of minors who are United States citizens. In some cases immigrant detainees spend days in solitary confinement, with overhead lights kept on 24 hours a day, and often in extreme heat and cold. According to official sources, the United States Government detains over 230,000 people a year – more than three times the number of people it held in detention nine years ago.

The Special Rapporteur notes with dismay that xenophobia and racism towards migrants in
the United States has worsened since 9/11. The current xenophobic climate adversely affects
many sections of the migrant population, and has a particularly discriminatory and devastating impact on many of the most vulnerable groups in the migrant population, including children, unaccompanied minors, Haitian and other Afro-Caribbean migrants, and migrants who are, or are perceived to be, Muslim or of South Asian or Middle Eastern descent.

The Special Rapporteur notes that the United States lacks a clear, consistent, long-term
strategy to improve respect for the human rights of migrants. Although there are national laws prohibiting discrimination, there is no national legislative and policy framework implementing protection for the human rights of migrants against which the federal and local programmes and strategies can be evaluated to assess to what extent the authorities are respecting the human rights of migrants.

In light of numerous issues described in this report, the Special Rapporteur has come to the conclusion that the United States has failed to adhere to its international obligations to make the human rights of the 37.5 million migrants living in the country (according to Government census data from 2006) a national priority, using a comprehensive and coordinated national policy based on clear international obligations. The primary task of such a national policy should be to recognize that, with the exception of certain rights relating to political participation, migrants enjoy nearly all the same human rights protections as citizens, including an emphasis on meeting the needs of the most vulnerable groups.

The Special Rapporteur has provided a list of detailed recommendations and conclusions,
stressing the need for an institution at the federal level with a mandate solely devoted to the human rights of migrants, a national body that truly represents the voices and concerns of the migrant population, and which could address underlying causes of migration and the human rights concerns of migrants within the United States.

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