The irony of the US human rights report

Felicia Persaud | 4/26/2018, 2:39 p.m.

Every year, without fail, the U.S. State Department issues a human rights report on nearly 200 countries and territories globally. The report is prepared using information from U.S. embassies and consulates abroad, foreign government officials, non-governmental and international organizations, jurists and legal experts, journalists, academics, labor activists and published reports on those countries, and then submitted to the U.S. Congress.

In the report, many countries are chided for many things, including prison and detention center conditions. But what about the U.S. record on human rights as it relates to its own detention centers?

Of course the U.S. does not issue a human rights report on itself. That would be too much, too audacious. Luckily, there are a number of independent rights organizations and groups that do fight for and monitor human rights, particularly of immigrants in this country, and the current situation is not pretty.

Here are some instances that should horrify many:

Detaining pregnant immigrant women

The U.S. Federal immigration officials have now ended a general practice of releasing pregnant women facing deportation under a policy revealed by the Trump administration.

The previous Immigration and Customs Enforcement policy had been that pregnant undocumented immigrants being detained were allowed to be freed on bond or supervised release.

But Donald Trump has ordered ICE to keep more undocumented immigrants in detention, including many pregnant women, who fled violence and abuse in their home countries, arguing that too many are released and never appear for their deportation hearings. The new policy was quietly signed three months ago with no hearing or public comment.

Holding immigrants in “freezers”

Human Right Watch has found that U.S. immigration authorities routinely detain men, women and children, including infants, in frigid holding cells, sometimes for days, when they are taken into custody at or near the U.S. border with Mexico. Migrants and U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents alike commonly refer to these cells as hieleras (freezers).

Women and children detained along the border usually spend one to three nights, and sometimes longer, in CBP holding cells, where they sleep on the floor, often with only a Mylar blanket, similar to the foil wrappers used by marathon runners, to protect them from the cold. Border agents sometimes require them to remove and discard sweaters or other layers of clothing, purportedly for security reasons, before they enter the holding cells. There is reportedly no access to showers and hygiene materials, including soap, toothbrushes and menstrual hygiene products.

Children taken from their migrant parents

New data reviewed by The New York Times shows that hundreds of immigrant children have been taken from parents at the U.S. border. In fact, the number has been put at more than 700 children since October last year. That includes more than 100 children under the age of 4, according to data prepared by the Office of Refugee Resettlement, a division of the Department of Health and Human Services that takes custody of children who have been removed from migrant parents.

Alleged “forced labor” in immigrant detention