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Immigrant citizens too face rights violation

Felicia Persaud | 4/25/2012, 6:37 p.m.
Letter No. 30: Immigration reform now!

The United States is failing in its obligations under international human rights law to ensure rights for all immigrants.

That's the word from Amnesty International (AI). In a new report, "In Hostile Terrain: Human Rights Violations in Immigration Enforcement in the U.S. Southwest," the rights group claims--much like I have in prior columns--that "recent legislation enacted or proposed in several states targets immigrant communities and places them, indigenous communities and other minority communities at risk of discrimination."

The report clearly highlights instances in which immigrant-born, naturalized U.S. citizens are facing discrimination by law enforcement officials who assume that because they are foreign, they are illegal.

Alfredo G., a U.S. citizen of Dominican descent featured in the report, encountered this bias firsthand. He said when he went to assist three of his father's employees who had been involved in a car accident, a Texas state trooper continually delayed completing the accident report. Three hours later, four sheriff's deputies arrived and surrounded Alfredo and the rest of the group with their vehicles.

Minutes later, an unmarked silver pickup truck pulled up and a man got out dressed in khaki (Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents often wear khaki uniforms). Said Alfredo, "He was very disrespectful. He asked, 'How are you in the United States?' and said, 'Sit down or I'll hit you,' to everyone.

"Initially, he didn't believe that I was a U.S. citizen. When he found out that I was, he just said, 'I'm sorry,' and identified himself as an ICE officer by showing me his badge...He tried to intimidate everyone. He made comments that we were all illegal. He treated us worse than animals."

Alfredo's encounter is only one of many that occur daily. The discrimination and rights violations are targeted particularly against communities of color living along the southwestern border of the United States, specifically in Texas and Arizona, said AI.

"Immigrants, U.S. citizens of Latino descent and indigenous people are disproportionately targeted for stops and searches due to discriminatory profiling based on race, ethnicity and indigenous status by federal, state and local law enforcement officials," said the report. "Monitoring and accountability of immigration and law enforcement officials is lacking and, as a result, those responsible for human rights abuses are rarely held to account, with the result that such practices have become both commonplace and entrenched."

There is no denying that racial profiling has become an issue for immigrants, both legal and illegal, and it is an aspect that the U.S. Justice Department should be attacking seriously when it comes to slapping down these silly state laws and ensuring the U.S. Constitution is upheld.

As AI clearly states: "The U.S. government has an obligation under international human rights law to ensure that its laws, policies and practices do not place immigrants at an increased risk of human rights abuses." It is time the United States stops questioning the human rights practices of all other countries and starts looking at its own house.

The writer is founder of NewsAmericasNow, CaribPR Wire and Hard Beat Communications.