US immigrant detentions violate human rights-report

WASHINGTON, (Reuters) – The detention of hundreds  of thousands of immigrants every year in the United States  represents a violation of human rights, Amnesty International  USA said in a report yesterday.

On an average day, the rights group said, more than 30,000  immigrants are in detention facilities. That’s triple the  number that were in custody a decade ago, according to  Amnesty’s report “Jailed Without Justice: Immigration Detention  in the USA.”

“America should be outraged by the scale of human rights  abuses occurring within its own borders,” said Larry Cox,  director  of Amnesty International USA.

“The United States has long been a country of immigrants,  and whether they have been here five years or five generations,  their human rights are to be respected.”

Amnesty said more than 300,000 people are detained by U.S.  immigration officials each year. They include asylum seekers,  torture survivors, victims of human trafficking, longtime legal  permanent residents and parents of U.S. citizen children.

“The use of detention as a tool to combat unauthorized  migration falls short of international human rights law,” the  report said.
According to Amnesty, tens of thousands of people languish  in American immigration detention facilities every year —  including a number of U.S. citizens — without receiving a  hearing to determine whether their detention is warranted.

Amnesty called on the U.S. government to ensure that all  immigrants and people seeking asylum in the United States who  have been detained receive a hearing to determine whether their  detention is necessary.

Sernata Reynolds, Amnesty USA’s policy director for Refugee  and Migrant Rights, said U.S. officials stepped up detentions  after the Sept. 11 attacks.

“Although the law permitted it, it hadn’t been used in the  way  that it was,” she said in an interview. “Then, in the climate  of  fear, it was exponentially growing, and continues to grow. This  year … they expect to detain 400,000 people.”

“No one comes close to detaining the amount of people that  the United States does,” she said. “I don’t know of another  country that detains hundreds of thousands of people as a  normal policy every year.”

According to the report, there were about 12 million  illegal  immigrants living in the United States as of January 2007. The  top  five countries of origin were Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala,  the  Philippines and China.

The Department of Homeland Security can detain people at the  border or during raids if it suspects them of an immigration  violation.
People detained at the border are not entitled to a review  of  their detention by an immigration judge, Amnesty said. Those  apprehended inside the United States have the right to appear  before a judge, but the wait can be long.

“U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents have been  incorrectly subject to mandatory detention and have spent  months or years behind bars before being able to prove they are  not deportable from the United States,” the report said.

Under international law, detention should only be used in  exceptional circumstances, must be justified in each individual  case and must be subject to judicial review.

Amnesty said many of the immigrants who are arrested are  unable to be freed on bond because the amount is set too high  for them to pay.

The report said U.S. citizens and lawful permanent  residents have been incorrectly subject to mandatory detention  with no right to a bond hearing before a judge and spent months  or years behind bars before proving they are not deportable.

Amnesty cited the case of a man who was born in Minnesota  and placed in immigration detention in Arizona. He was unable  to access his birth certificate because he was in detention and  ended up working for $1 a day in the prison kitchen to earn the  $30 necessary to order a copy of his birth certificate.

The report said detention facilities for immigrants violate  international standards. Amnesty said detainees have reported  receiving poor medical care, some complained of being put in  excessive restraints and others were held with people  imprisoned for criminal offenses.

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