Sunday, June 24, 2012

Responses to the United Nations Special Rapporteur's report on detention of migrants

On Friday, June 22, the U.S. ambassador to the Human Rights Council delivered the following statement in response to the United Nations Special Rapporteur's report on detention of migrants.  Here is the ACLU's response:  Download Aclu statement

Madame President,

The American Civil Liberties Union thanks the Special Rapporteur for his excellent and comprehensive thematic report on the detention of migrants and for the special attention given to alternatives to detention.

The U.S. immigration detention system locks up tens of thousands of immigrants unnecessarily every year, exposing detainees – including vulnerable populations such as persons with mental disabilities, asylum-seekers, women, children, and LGBT individuals – to brutal and inhumane conditions of confinement.

A recent report by the ACLU of Georgia documented alarming human rights abuses in four immigrant detention facilities in the state of Georgia, three of which are operated by private corporations. The report found violations of detainees’ due process rights, inadequate living conditions, inadequate medical and mental health care, and other breaches.

This system of mass detention persists despite the fact that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) acknowledges that most immigration detainees “have a low propensity for violence.” Moreover, such mass detention is unnecessary to enforce immigration laws given the availability of alternatives to detention that have been shown to be successful at ensuring appearance at far less cost. These include supervised release with a combination of case management and assistance, reporting requirements (telephonic and/or in-person), and where necessary, curfews, home visits, and electronic monitoring.

While the Obama administration has slightly reduced its congressional request for funding of immigration detention beds, there are many additional steps the administration should take to bring its immigration detention policies and practices in line with international human rights law.

U.S. immigration authorities should use detention only as a last resort, in those circumstances where no alternative conditions of release would be sufficient to address the government’s concerns about danger or flight risk. In this regard, the U.S. government should institute procedures to ensure that: no person is subjected to immigration detention without a hearing before an impartial adjudicator; vulnerable populations are prioritized for release; ICE’s overbroad application of mandatory detention provisions is abandoned; and collaboration with local NGOs on alternatives to detention programs is increased.

Finally, the federal government should avoid the use of privately-run detention facilities, increase transparency and oversight, and make greater use of cost-effective alternatives to detention.


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