Public Comment to the United States Commission on Civil Rights: Immigration Detention Centers and Treatment of Immigrants
We extend our appreciation for the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights in re-opening the 2015 investigative report, With Liberty and Justice for All: The State of Civil Rights at Immigration Detention Facilities. With a growing number of publicized human rights grievances and the understanding that the impacts are indefinite, our organizations write to express our solemn concerns at the alarming inhumanity conducted by the U.S. President, Department of Homeland Security, and the Department of Health and Human Services.

We believe that no person, regardless of citizenship status or statelessness, is illegal nor worthy of a limitation on basic human rights including the right to life, to live free from fear of persecution, the right to self-determination, and, to seek progressive realization and protection of such rights as upheld by the United States government. We believe in International Human Rights Law that defines persons’ rights to seek asylum and remain in the country without detainment while awaiting court consideration for their individual case. We believe in extensive protections owed to minors to remain within the physical care and presence of their caregivers and family. And, we believe that all persons entering the U.S. illegally or otherwise must have their dignity and personhood honored, respected and protected.

Immigration is a federal and international process and as such all aspects must be regulated and conducted by the state in order to maintain accountability and responsibility. The blurred scope of immigration in the U.S. permits an inexcusable failure to provide informed and consensual physical, reproductive and mental healthcare; humane living quarters; developmentally appropriate necessities such as familial presence and education; translation services; and access to information on immigrants’ rights and legal processes. We align with the millions of others citing gross human rights violations in detention centers and urge the USCCR take every step to attune the harm that has been done.

The separation of children from their core family members and subsequent neglect and abuse while detained is unnecessarily cruel and will be marked in the United States’ history as a horrific injustice. To which reparations will be made generations to come without full reconciliation. As public policy experts, advocates, educators and activists, we compel the USCCR to uphold our values of humanity, of the right for immigrants to live freely and with just protection of their rights, dignity, prosperity, and wellness.

We demand that the USCCR further investigate and enforce the President, Department of Homeland Security and Department of Social and Human Services to effect or rectify the following:

-Immediate reunification of families, citing reports on trauma, neglect, and maltreatment of child-primary caregiver separation and gross human rights violations committed by officials within detention centers, as well as those detained.

-Disband privatized contracts with corporations running and regulating detention centers.

-Reinstate a ban on detaining pregnant persons.

-Enforce mandatory detainment time limitations while eliminating the ‘bed quota.’

-Uphold the legal obligations of the United States in enabling asylum and refugee status applications.

-Mandate healthcare and quality of life standards in detention centers with regular and ongoing monitoring by experts neutral of the DHS and DHHS.

-Relinquish debts incurred by detained family members for inhumane policies.

-Provide appointed counsel for immigrants as the legal system is extremely complex and in respect to due process, access to legal representation is necessary.

-Eradicate the 287(g) program, currently permitting law enforcement agencies to enact federal immigration laws.

-Expand the use of community driven alternatives to detention.


We look forward to the investigation’s findings and are optimistic that the USCCR will sustain its presence in responsible enforcement of human rights protections.

Signed,

Human Rights Educators USA
Columbia University School of International and Public Affairs, Human Rights Working Group
Columbia University School of International and Public Affairs, Migration Working Group
Art and Resistance Through Education (ARTE)

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