Human Rights Violations at the Border

The U.S.-Mexico border has for a long time been the center of heated controversy. Now, a human rights group has found that there are a plethora of human-rights abuses that have occurred there, from the needless deaths of border-crossers to inhumane conditions in immigration detention to the racial profiling of entire Latino and indigenous communities. Amnesty International and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) both urge the U.S. government to abide by the human rights treaties to which it is signatory to and cease this maltreatment of individuals.

In Amnesty International’s report, titled “In Hostile Terrain: Human Rights Violations in Immigration Enforcement in the U.S. Southwest,” it details numerous human rights abuses. Apparently, the “prevention through deterrence” strategy of immigration enforcement currently in place which seeks to re-direct the flow of unauthorized immigrants into ever-more isolated and dangerous terrain with the explicit aim of placing them in “mortal danger” has resulted in 5,287 pointless deaths of border-crossers from 1998 to 2008. The conditions confronting immigrants in detention, such as physical abuse, inadequate food and medical care, lack of access to legal counsel, coerced signing of removal documents, and prolonged or even permanent separation from their U.S. citizen children is also a major problem that occurs all too often. Furthermore, the report indicates that the racial profiling of Latinos and indigenous peoples by federal, state and local law-enforcement personnel who are searching for unauthorized immigrants is evident in the fact that “brown-skinned” people are “disproportionately targeted for stops and searches.”

In order to remedy these and other injustices, Amnesty International suggests 43 reforms in the U.S. immigration and border-enforcement policies. The government should start by ensuring that all state governments and their respective legislations respect immigrants’ rights, including the rights to freedom from discrimination, to due process and the rights to health and education; and when states pass legislation that is not in line with these principles, the federal government should intervene. All state, county and local police departments should implement policies that prevent officers from inquiring into the immigration status of individuals when people are reporting crime as victims or witnesses so that immigrants are not afraid of reporting victimizations. And the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) should ensure that every person who is at risk of removal from the U.S. is given access to a judicial hearing, interpretation services and to a review by a judicial authority in the event of a negative decision. Also with regards to respecting due process rights, all immigrants in detention while in removal proceedings should have access to legal representation in order to be able to challenge their detention. The basic point of Amnesty International and the IACHR is that even unauthorized immigrants have human rights, and the U.S. government is not respecting those rights despite its obligations under international law to do so.

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