Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Amnesty International USA finds U.S. immigrant detentions violate human rights

A new report from Amnesty International USA, Jailed Without Justice: Immigration Detention in the USA has revealed that more than 30,000 immigrants are detained each day, three times as many as one decade ago, and that this number is likely to increase even further. They include asylum seekers, torture survivors, victims of human trafficking, longtime lawful permanent residents, and the parents of US citizen children. The US detains children, asylum seekers, survivors of torture and human trafficking, lawful permanent residents and the parents of U.S. citizen children.

While ICE reported an average detention stay of 37 days in 2007, immigrants and asylum seekers may be detained for months or even years as they go through deportation procedures that will determine whether or not they are eligible to remain in the United States. According to a 2003 study, individuals who were eventually granted asylum spent an average of 10 months in detention with the longest reported period being 3.5 years. Amnesty International has documented several cases in this report, in which individuals have been detained for four years. Individuals who have been ordered deported may languish in detention indefinitely if their home country is unwilling to accept their return or does not have diplomatic relations with the United States.

In order to meet the rising demand for space to house immigration detainees, US immigration authorities to contract with approximately 350 state and county criminal jails across the country. Approximately 67 per cent of immigration detainees are held in these facilities, while the remaining individuals are held in facilities operated by immigration authorities and private contractors.

Amnesty International found that the detention of immigrants and asylum seekers puts considerable pressure on individuals to abandon potentially valid claims to remain in the United States.


As a result of their findings, Amnesty International USA has made the following recommendations:

1. The US Congress should pass legislation creating a presumption against the detention of immigrants and asylum seekers and ensuring that it be used as a measure of last resort;

2. The US government should ensure that alternative non-custodial measures, such as reporting requirements or an affordable bond, are always explicitly considered before resorting to detention. Reporting requirements should not be unduly onerous, invasive or difficult to comply with, especially for families with children and those of limited financial means. Conditions of release should be subject to judicial review.

3. The US Congress should pass legislation to ensure that all immigrants and asylum seekers have access to individualized hearings on the lawfulness, necessity, and appropriateness of detention.

4. The US government should ensure the adoption of enforceable human rights detention standards in all detention facilities that house immigration detainees, either through legislation or through the adoption of enforceable policies and procedures by the Department of Homeland Security. There should be effective independent oversight to ensure compliance with detention standards and accountability for any violations.

ACT NOW: If you got to Amnesty's Web site you can take action now and e-mail Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and call for these changes to be made.

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