Tuesday, May 30, 2023
By: Gabrielle Thomas1 and Denisse Córdova Montes
In 1808, the U.S. abolished the transatlantic slave trade, but today, the semiotics of the slave ship continues through forced movements and separations of migrants and refugees. Slave codes sustained through immigration laws and policies of both political parties endlessly reignite the generational trauma of forced removal. At a thematic hearing at the 186th Period of Sessions of the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights (IACHR), the Human Rights Clinic at University of Miami School of Law (HRC), alongside Haitian Bridge Alliance (HBA), RFK Human Rights (RFK), and University of Pennsylvania Transnational Legal Clinic (UPenn TLC), provided testimony of systemic racism committed by ICE officials against Haitian immigrants. At the hearing, we argued that the U.S. government’s treatment of Black migrants is discriminatory and in violation of the American Declaration on the Rights and Duties of Man, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. The U.S. government responded with an evasive claim of racially equitable practices within their immigration system.
Black Immigrants Face a Double Jeopardy of Being Both Black and Immigrants
The U.S. government’s lack of transparency about its racist practices, despite public and frequent documentation of the disproportionate negative treatment of Black immigrants, remains of the upmost concern. Black immigrants face a double jeopardy of being both Black and immigrant. They are stopped, questioned, arrested, and deported at disproportionate and higher rates. Black persons, more generally, are five times more likely to be stopped without cause than a white person. The racism of the militarized criminal justice system spills over into their immigration system creating a prison-to-deportation pipeline. In our hearing with the IACHR, Daniel Tse of HBA and RFK highlighted that, “though [Black migrants] are less than 6% of the undocumented population, they make up more than 20% of the immigrant population facing detention and deportation on criminal grounds.” Furthermore, “76% of [Black migrants] are deported because of contact with the police and the criminal legal system.”
Haitian Immigrants Face Heightened Discrimination in the Immigration System and are Deported to Conditions Tantamount to Torture
Haitian migrants, in particular, face heightened police harassment, heightened state monitoring, heightened unjust immigration enforcement, and harsher prosecution. Once arrested and put into ICE custody, Haitian migrants must pay higher bonds for release than other migrants in detention. These migrants also serve longer sentences in ICE custody and face a heightened risk of deportation. For black migrants, speaking out results in retaliatory violence from ICE officers and retaliatory transfers to distant facilities and unfamiliar lands.
Recently, our clinic documented conditions tantamount to torture in Haitian prisons, where recently deported individuals were detained upon arrival in Haiti. Once deported to Haiti, migrants were detained indefinitely, inflicted with severe pain and suffering, and faced heightened persecution, extortion, and harassment for being and sounding “American”. Many of these Haitians know no other home than America where their family reside. James – a man previously deported to Haiti – faced crippling discrimination as a “deep” – slang for deported individual – and encountered violations of his rights to work, health, family, food, and security while encountering gang kidnapping and brutality. Despite the horrors James faced, when questioned about the conditions he endured after deportation, James expressed his need to simply see his children. Before the U.S. deported James, he provided for his two daughters and remained a devoted father. He stressed that one of his daughters turns sixteen this year, but “they took [my] kids away,” and he is down in Haiti struggling
The U.S. Has a Long History of Anti-Black U.S. Immigration Policies
Forced movement and separation of Black migrants did not start with Trump era politics nor did they cease with the emancipation proclamation. The practice of ruthlessly ejecting Black persons from the U.S. started before the Civil War. Since the Haitian Revolution of 1791-1807, the U.S. has implemented anti-black immigration policies to prevent the unfavorable freed Black persons from coming into this country. The liberation of Haitians from French occupation nearly two thousand miles away, fueled Thomas Jefferson to pass a bill in 1803, prohibiting any “Negro and mulatto” migrants. During this total ban on Black migrants in the country, in the 1857 Dred Scott Dred Scott v. Sanford case, Mr. Scott and Mrs. Scott argued that after their perilous journey from chattel slavery to safety, they have a right to stay free and citizens. This 11-year struggle reaffirmed 1803 race-based restrictions on migration ending with the Supreme Court ruling that Mr. and Mrs. Scott, were not citizens and as, “a negro, whose ancestors were imported into [the U.S.], and sold as slaves, whether enslaved or free, could not be an American citizen and therefore did not have standing to sue in federal court.”
Forced Movement and Separation of Black Families Should Come to an End
The widespread emancipation of Black peoples throughout the Americas in the late nineteenth century further ignited racist and xenophobic sentiments. The Calvin Coolidge Administration implemented the Immigration Act of 1924 which turned away Black migrants with a nationality-based quota system that favored European countries. The U.S. executive branch continued to implement excessive anti-Black immigration policies under the Carter, Reagan, H.W. Bush, and Clinton administrations.
Today, the disproportionate treatment of Haitian migrants continues. Like the Immigration Act of 1924 with nationality-based quota system that preferred European countries, the Biden administration expelled nearly 20,000 Haitians the same year he extended protections to as many as 180,000 Ukrainian migrants. In 2021, confirming that U.S. border policies still operate to create a racial double-standard, the U.S. government decided to exempt Ukrainians from the Title 42 Policy that led to Homeland Security riding on horses into crowds of Haitian refugees with whips on December 6, 2021 exhibiting modern-day “Slave Patrol”.
The afterlife of the slave ship lives in policies that dehumanize Black migrants by disproportionately persecuting them and knowingly sending them to their torture and death. Newly obtained documents revealed that high-ranking ICE officials directly involved in the mass deportation of Black migrants felt disdain for Africa, disregard for Black migrants, and hostility towards immigrant rights activists. Who gets to be human in crisis? All migrants have a right to be treated with dignity. The disproportionate treatment of Black migrants and Haitians must come to an end and the U.S. should stop deportations to Haiti.
1Gabrielle Thomas is a rising 3L student at the University of Miami School of Law. She served as a Human Rights Clinic law intern as a 2L.
Friday, May 26, 2023
IACHR Special Rapporteur on Economic, Social, Cultural and Environmental Rights to Meet with Indigenous Tribes
This week, May 22-26, 2023, the IACHR Special Rapporteur on Economic, Social, Cultural and Environmental Rights (REDESCA) is visiting and meeting with three Indigenous tribes from Alaska and leaders from four Indigenous communities in Louisiana for site visits and in-depth discussions about the impacts of the climate crisis on the social, economic, environmental, and cultural experiences of the Tribes. During these visits, the legal justice coalition involved will be spotlighting the human rights impacts of the climate crisis on Indigenous culture and livelihoods, the forced displacement of their communities and the role of the US government in addressing these issues.
This meeting is the result of an October 2022 IACHR hearing, where five tribes—four from Louisiana, one from Alaska—participated in a hearing about threats to tribal sovereignty and determination posed by climate change. As a result of the tribes’ testimonies, REDESCA asked the State Department for an in-loco visit to the United States to visit the tribes and understand how the climate crisis is impacting not only community infrastructure, but also how tribes have experienced economic, cultural, and social discrimination when trying to address climate change impacts. During the tour, members of the tribes will not only show the stark impacts of climate change and its effects on land, bodies of water, homes, and infrastructure, but will also discuss the institutional and systemic racism of both the U.S., Alaska, and Louisiana governments in providing inadequate resources for repair and recovery in the face of massive storms, catastrophic land collapse, soil erosion, rising waters, thawing permafrost, and decreasing arctic sea ice, among other impacts. REDESCA’s visit will provide a tool for the Tribe’s ongoing organizing and advocacy in ensuring that the State and Federal governments meet their obligations in protecting and upholding the rights of the Tribes.
You can read more about the IACHR hearing here: https://www.uusc.org/tribes-leadership-brings-climate-crisis-to-international-forum/
Tuesday, April 4, 2023
On March 2 and 3, 2023, the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights visited internet companies and organizations based in the San Francisco Bay Area, to discuss and gather information regarding their policies and practices on human rights and technology. The visit was led by the Special Rapporteur, Pedro Vaca Villarreal, together with representatives of the States of Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Peru, and Uruguay.
The delegation visited the headquarters of organizations and social media platforms that play a relevant role on today’s public debate online, including Twitter, Meta, Google, Internet Archive, Wikimedia, Creative Commons, and TikTok. During the visits, the Special Rapporteur underlined the need to expand the democratic culture and mechanisms for the protection of human rights online, explaining some of the main obstacles and even setbacks observed around freedom of expression on the Internet. Discussions delved into the challenges posed by the use of artificial intelligence for social media content and of content moderation systems, which could put freedoms at risk, and exacerbate pre-existing social tensions and power disparities of the different actors involved in Internet governance.
The Special Rapporteur called on platforms to align practices in accordance with human rights guidelines and for both companies and public authorities to observe Inter-American standards on freedom of expression when adopting decisions that impact the circulation of online content, including during electoral contexts. The Special Rapporteur also underscored the challenges of digital literacy and inclusion in the hemisphere, especially for the most vulnerable populations, such as those living in rural or remote areas, indigenous peoples, women, LGBTQIA+, racialized people, and people in socioeconomic vulnerability. He highlighted the need to promote the participation, diversity, and openness in the deliberations of public interest and to overcome the barriers that may affect the possibility of connecting to networks, devices, and applications, or that have an impact in accessing information and consuming online content in a critical and informed manner.
More on the visit is available on the OAS website here.
Monday, March 27, 2023
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) concluded its 186th Period of Sessions, which took place in a hybrid format between March 6 and 17, 2023, at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), in the United States.
During the Period of Sessions, the IACHR elected its 2023 Board of Directors, which is made up of the President, Commissioner Margarette May Macaulay (Jamaica); the First Vice-President, Commissioner Esmeralda Arosemena de Troitiño (Panama), and the Second Vice-President, Commissioner Roberta Clarke (Barbados). This is the second time in its history that the IACHR has had an all-female board of directors and the first in which all three women are from the Caribbean and Central America.
During the first week of the 186th Period of Sessions, 18 in-person public hearings were held at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). Among the issues addressed were: women and girls; sexual and reproductive rights; indigenous peoples; forensic search; free movement; human mobility; LGBTI rights; arbitrary deprivation of nationality; fiscal policies and economic, social, cultural, and environmental rights; threats to the independence of the judiciary; the protection of journalists and defenders; and the right to information of victims of forced disappearance.
In addition, more than 70 representatives of civil society organizations took part in the meeting on human rights in the United States. On this occasion, the IACHR held a dialogue and received information on the subject from various participants.
The IACHR has made available an annex containing summaries of the public hearings held during this Period of Sessions. Videos of the hearings and photos are available on the IACHR's YouTube and Flickr feeds.
Thursday, March 2, 2023
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) has published the calendar of public hearings that will take place as part of the 183rd Period of Sessions, to be held in person from March 6–10, 2023, at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), in the United States. During the period of sessions, several promotional events and 17 public hearings will be held, covering a range of human rights issues affecting people in movement, the LGBTI community, women, indigenous peoples, human rights defenders, and journalists in OAS member countries and the Americas as a whole. Of the 17 hearings, 3 will follow up on cases that have been brought before the IACHR and 1 concerns the implementation of precautionary measures that have been granted. An in-person meeting with civil society on the human rights situation in the United States will also be held on March 10, 2023 between 12:15 p.m. and 2:00 p.m. (PT) in Rooms C and D of the UCLA Meyer & Renee Luskin Conference Center, located at 425 Westwood Plaza, Los Angeles, California. The meeting will be held in a hybrid format, with in-person attendance and the possibility of connecting virtually for those organizations unable to attend in person. In both modalities it will be possible to access Spanish/English interpretation. The link to connect is as follows: https://cidh-org.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZcvcOmspzMuEtTgbKeTuvzoKJyxBpmI8wiV.
The United States will be involved in the hearing on March 9, 2023, from 8:45-10:00AM PT, on the topic of the rights of Haitians in mobility in the United States. The participants will be the Transnational Legal Clinic University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School, the International Human Rights Clinic and Immigration Clinic University of Miami School of Law, the Haitian Bridge Alliance, RFK Human Rights, Alternative Chance, the Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti (IJDJ), and the United States.
In accordance with Article 68 of the IACHR's Rules of Procedure, all hearings will be public and will be streamed live via the IACHR's official Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter accounts. The sessions are open to all people wishing to attend (without the need to sign up in advance), and attendance is only limited by the space available at the venue where the hearings are to be held.
Tuesday, February 14, 2023
On February 10, 2023, the U.S. State Department announced its selection of James L. Cavallaro as the United States’ candidate for commissioner of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights for the 2024-2027 term. The IACHR is one of the principal organs of the Organization of American States (OAS), whose function is to promote the observance and protection of human rights and to serve as a consultative organ of the Organization in these matters and is made up of seven independent members who serve in a personal capacity.
Professor Cavallaro is a visiting professor at Yale Law School, Columbia Law School, Berkeley Law School and UCLA School of Law, as well as the founder and President of the University Network for Human Rights (UNHR), which works to facilitate supervised, interdisciplinary engagement in human rights practice at universities and foster the next generation of human rights advocates. If elected, this will be his second term serving as commissioner – he previously served during the 2014-2017 term, including as its president from 2016-2017.
Member states of the OAS will vote to fill four IACHR commissioner seats during elections at the June 2023 General Assembly in Washington, D.C. Find the State Department’s press release here, and the UNHR’s press statement here.
Update: The United States has withdrawn Professor Cavallero as a candidate for the OACHR. More here.
Thursday, July 7, 2022
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights Issued Precautionary Measures for Detained Persons in the U.S. on Death Row so far in 2022
By Manni Jandernoa, rising 2L at St. Louis University School of Law
Since the start of 2022, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) has granted precautionary measures for three Americans sentenced with the death penalty who were at “serious and urgent risk of irreparable harm to [their] rights.” When the IACHR grants precautionary measures, the Commission “aims to safeguard the rights at risk “...until the Commission makes an eventual decision on “whether or not there were violations of human rights. In this regard, precautionary measures enable the State concerned to comply with the final recommendations made by the IACHR.” All three Americans who were granted precautionary measures had execution dates set in 2022. The IACHR also continues to maintain its stance in support of the abolition of the death penalty, as explained in their 2011 report.The three precautionary measures are enumerated below:
The IACHR issued precautionary measures for Richard Eugene Glossip on March 3, 2022. According to the allegations reported in the related press release, Glossip has been held in Oklahoma for 23 years in solitary confinement on death row. It is further alleged in the press release that Glossip “was not adequately represented during the criminal trials against him, claiming negligence by his legal defense in not carrying out an exhaustive investigation into the alleged crimes he was charged with, as well as lack of location of witnesses, non-collection of relevant records and documents, and little performance of cross-examination.”
Melissa Lucio’s execution date was set in Texas for April 27, 2022. The IACHR issued precautionary measures for Lucio on February 18, 2022, and further issued a press release on April 22, 2022, urging the United States to withdraw her death penalty. At that time, Lucio had been held in solitary confinement for fourteen years. Ultimately, related or not to the IACHR’s actions, the Texas Criminal Court of Appeals granted Lucio a stay of execution. Following the stay of execution, the IACHR issued a press release welcoming the decision. This decision made by the Texas Criminal Court of Appeals also orders the trial court to review four claims to determine whether a new trial should be granted: “that the conviction is based on the use of false and scientifically invalid testimony by the State, that new scientific evidence undermines her conviction, that the State suppressed information favorable to Lucio, and that she is truly innocent.”
Clarence Wayne Dixon was issued precautionary measures on May 10, 2022, with an execution date set for May 11, 2022, in Arizona. The related press release recounted the allegations that Dixon is “a person of Navajo origin, who suffers from multiple mental and physical health conditions, such as paranoid type schizophrenia, major depressive disorder, glaucoma with secondary blindness, among others.” Further, it was alleged in the request for precautionary measures that Dixon faced “violations of several of the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man particularly in relation to access to justice, due process, and adequate defense.” Before the IACHR could reach a decision on the allegations, Dixon was executed on May 11th, 2022, prompting a from the IACHR. condemnation from the IACHR.
Monday, June 6, 2022
On June 1, 2022, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) released this statement condemning the mass shooting at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, where 21 people—19 children and two teachers—lost their lives. In the face of this tragedy, the IACHR sent its condolences to the families of the victims, as well as to survivors of the shooting and to anyone who may have been affected by these events. The IACHR urged the federal authorities and the state of Texas to comprehensively investigate what happened and its underlying causes and take immediate legislative action to prevent gun violence.
The IACHR noted that the shooting in Uvalde happened just 10 days after the one in Buffalo, New York, where a man attacked a supermarket in a predominantly African American community and killed 10 people. Additionally, the IACHR noted with particular concern that according to Gun Violence Archive—an independent research and data collection organization—, during 2021, 690 indiscriminate mass shootings occurred, that resulted in multiple murders and injuries. So far in 2022, at least 213 events of this nature have been recorded.
The IACHR noted that the current federal administration has adopted measures to control gun violence, mainly through the implementation of executive orders. In this context, the Commission reiterated its call on the U.S. government to adopt urgent and effective legislative measures, to eradicate the series of armed violence in the country, such as effective gun control. It has been noted that many scientific studies, conducted over several decades and comparatively, show that factors that lead to violent environments include easy access to firearms and therefore, a high number of weapons in the hands of individuals.
In order to prevent human loss, the IACHR stated that it is essential for the United States to implement more restrictive laws to control the possession and carrying of weapons. This includes restrictions concerning assault weapons, like the AR-15 type rifle used in this and other attacks, including the one that took place on October 1, 2017 in Nevada. Further, the IACHR urged the U.S. to take effective action to enable greater supervision of the issuance of licenses, registration requirements, and access to ammunition.
To read the IACHR's full statement, visit https://www.oas.org/en/IACHR/jsForm/?File=/en/iachr/media_center/PReleases/2022/122.asp.
Monday, December 13, 2021
On Thursday, December 16th at 14:00-15:30 ET, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights will hold a hearing on the right to housing in the United States. Participants include the Center for Human for Human Rights & Humanitarian Law at American University Washington College of Law has convened a delegation of experts working to combat the criminalization of homelessness in the United States, including advocates from the National Homelessness Law Center, the ACLU of Northern California, the ACLU of Southern California, and California-based NGO Reach for the Top. Directly impacted people from across the country will also testify to the Commission, calling attention to human rights violations and offering emerging better practices.
Monday, October 25, 2021
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights is current holding its 181st Period of Sessions virtually from October 18th until October 29th of 2021.
To view the hearings, pre-registration is required: https://oas.org/en/iachr/sessions/calendario.asp?S=181. All times are listed in United States Eastern Standard Time.
Some of the upcoming hearings that might be of interest to our readers include:
Tuesday, October 26, 2021:
16:00 – 17:30: Protection of people in Human Mobility in the United States, Mexico, and the Northern Central America
Wednesday, October 27, 2021:
9:00 – 10:30: Use of surveillance technologies and their impact on freedom of expression in the context of the pandemic in the region.
Thursday, October 28, 2021:
14:00 – 15:30: Human rights situation of persons deprived of liberty in the Americas.
For basic information and guidelines about the proceedings and hearings, please visit https://oas.org/en/iachr/jsForm/?File=/en/iachr/sessions/coverage.asp.
Sunday, April 18, 2021
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) has announced that the 180th Period of Sessions (June 21-July 2nd) will be again held virtually. The portal for requesting hearings and working meetings for the 180th Period of Sessions is open until April 21, 2021. Information available here.
In other news, the United States has nominated human rights law professor Alexandra Huneeus for the position of Commissioner on the IACHR for the 2022-2025 term. The United States has nominated Ms. Alexandra Huneeus, J.D., Ph.D., for the position of Commission on the IACHR for the 2022-2025 term. Her CV is available here and the nomination letter from the U.S. Permanent Mission to the OAS is available here.
Thank you to Professor Sarah Paoletti for this info!
Sunday, March 21, 2021
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) is in the middle of its 179th Period of Sessions, which is being held again in an all-virtual format. While there are no hearings scheduled this week focusing solely on the US, of interest may be the hearing on "Internet content moderation and freedom of expression in the Americas" scheduled for Thursday March 25, 2021, from 2-3:30pm ET. This hearing was called by the IACHR on its own initiative (an ex officio hearing).
To register to watch the virtual hearing on Internet Content Moderation, visit: https://cidh-org.zoom.us/j/85942567179?pwd=SWY1cTVTOUp6MmhyTjR6bFNPZTV1Zz09
Thursday, March 28, 2019
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights recently issued its report on police violence against African Americans in the United States. Approved in November 2018, the report assesses structural discrimination against African-Americans with a particular focus on "deepseated racial disparities in policing and the criminal justice system". The IACHR notes that concerns that the long-standing violence against African Americans raises a larger concern with US failure to enforce international human rights norms.
The report goes beyond assessment of violation of individual civil and human rights. The report includes a history of the race discrimination in the US as well as examining "modern structural discrimination" and over-policing.
The IACHR press release notes that the report's "conclusions are perhaps most succinctly expressed in a note on the cover art, which reads, “the United States has systematically failed to adopt preventive measures and to train its police forces to perform their duties in an appropriate fashion. This has led to the frequent use of force based on racial bias and prejudice and tends to result in unjustified killings of African Americans.”