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Friday, March 30, 2012

Immigration Enforcement and Human Rights in the U.S.

Amnesty International has published a scathing report concerning efforts to control immigration to the U.S.

It's called Hostile Terrain:  Human Rights Violations in Immigration Enforcement in the American Southwest and it documents some of the worst horrors of a post-911 America.

While we can and should have debates about immigration policy (a debate that is going on all over the world in many countries) the actions of governments must be conducted within international laws that protect human rights.   The right to protect one's territory must be balanced by a respect for human dignity.  Overstaying a visa or entering a country illegally can never be used as a justification for abusing people or depriving them of their lives, though the immigration rhetoric in some countries comes very close to saying just that.  In 2011 the Kansas state representative Virgil Peck declared:   "Looks like to me, if shooting those immigrant feral hogs works, maybe we have found a [solution] to our illegal immigration problem."

That, kind sir, would be a violation of several international conventions concerning migrants that the U.S. has, in fact, signed and sworn to uphold.  Amesty International points out that:
The USA has ratified, and therefore has an obligation to adhere to, many of the key human rights treaties that guarantee these fundamental rights, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR);  the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD); and the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

The USA has signed the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights; the Convention on the Rights of the Child; and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women. As a signatory to these treaties, it has an obligation to refrain from actions that would defeat their object and purpose.  International law also obliges the USA to protect and fulfill human rights and to safeguard individuals from infringement of these rights by third parties, the principle of “due diligence.”This includes an obligation to prevent human rights violations, investigate and punish them when they occur, and provide compensation and support services for victims.
Failure to respect these conventions puts the United States government firmly in the camp of the "law breakers."  If only a mere fraction of what Amnesty International is reporting is true, it makes a mockery of the idea that the U.S. is a bastion of freedom and a country respectful of laws.

For those who would prefer to ignore this or who think they are safe because they aren't of Mexican origin or "illegal,"  I'd like to respectfully point out that all efforts against immigrants sooner or later trap citizens and documented immigrants as well.  It can be as simple as encountering major inconvenience trying to go about their daily lives (having to prove citizenship, produce papers, being hassled because of an accent by law enforcement) or it can be as bad as being detained and abused on the suspicion that one might just be in an "irregular situation."  Amnesty cites 82 cases where U.S. citizens were incarcerated until they could clear up their status.  

Read the report.  It's illuminating.

And, if you're interested in U.S. immigration matters, I highly recommend the site which has a daily round-up of excellent articles and links and a very good blog.  Also see this blog post by Michael Kolken for a very strong opinion about U.S. immigration policy and the upcoming U.S. election.


Anonymous said...

Hello Victoria
I have been following your blog since last November when you came up in a Google search on "citzenship". I enjoy the diversity of your posts which are always interesting, good food for thought and informative. You are a talented author and obviously quite an amazing woman.
I am particularly saddened to read this post and the Amnesty report. America has changed so much over the past 43 years I have lived in France. What has happened to the values so particular to America?
We knew that 9/11 would change America forever, but who could have imagined there would be so many negative consequences.

Thank you, I always look forward to discovering your daily "plat du jour".

Victoria FERAUGE said...


Thank you so much for your kind words and for being a regular reader of the Flophouse. It is a modest venture but I love doing it. It always amazes and delights me that it brings pleasure to others too.

The Amnesty report is sad reading. I can certainly understand people's fear but I cannot help contrast what is happening in the U.S. with the relative calm of the Brits and the French.

All the best to you,