U.S. migration/rights policies challenged before the United Nations Human Rights Council

10/31/2019, 1:21 p.m.
When one thinks of complaints to the United Nations Human Rights Council, over human rights, one almost always assumes the ...
United Nations General Assembly hall

When one thinks of complaints to the United Nations Human Rights Council, over human rights, one almost always assumes the accused nations are dictatorial regimes carrying out xenophobic agendas.

Sadly in 2019, the label is being largely leveled at a superpower: the United States of America under the Donald Trump administration. The global rights group, Human Rights Watch, this month complained to the UNHRC that the United States has failed to implement recommendations it agreed to in its 2015 Universal Periodic Review of protection of human rights in the domestic sphere reviews, including those involving treatment of immigrants, criminal justice and policing, access to health care, women’s rights and privacy.

The HRW submission came even though the United States, in 2018, withdrew from the United Nations Human Rights Council, representing what the rights group pointed out is “just one step in the country’s steady regression in the protection of human rights.”

That includes of course the numerous abuses against immigrants, as HRW reiterated, including separating children—including infants and toddlers—from their family members; detaining migrants, including children and families, in inhumane conditions; failing to provide adequate medical care to detained migrants and restricting access to asylum through policies such as returning asylum seekers to Mexico, where they often cannot pay for basic necessities and remain at risk of serious crime, including kidnapping, sexual assault and violence.

This came even though the United States had committed to providing “appropriate procedural safeguards in immigration proceedings,” stating that “[n]oncitizens in the U.S. facing removal receive significant procedural protections.” But Human Rights Watch told UNHRC that it has documented the pervasive lack of such safeguards and found that U.S. immigration officials’ methods for interviewing migrants in expedited removal procedures are seriously flawed, leading to the rapid return to other countries of people who face harm, contrary to U.S. law and international standards.

A new rule proposing the expansion of expedited removal would expose thousands more people living in the U.S. to these same flawed procedures, likely separating families through deportation and resulting in asylum seekers erroneously being deported, HRW stated.

The rights group is urging the U.S. through UNHRC to do the following:

“Expeditiously develop and implement alternatives to immigration detention and ensure accountability for abuses;

End the use of immigration detention for children, unaccompanied and with families;

Stop separating child migrants from their family members except where a trained child welfare professional has determined separation is in the child’s best interest;

End the Migrant Protection Protocols program and ensure broad access to US asylum procedures;

Guarantee access to adequate medical care for all detained immigrants and ensure effective and appropriate oversight, including public release of investigations into detainee deaths;

End the use of expedited removal procedures at the border and in the interior of the country.”

These are a valid list of recommendations and it would be great if the UNHRC could force the Trump administration to urgently make these changes.

But we won’t hold our breath given the racist and xenophobic agenda of this administration. As HRW itself pointed out—“the UPR is ineffective if limited to a conceptual exercise, and no country should claim success by accepting recommendations that require no identifiable outcomes or even proof of a deliberative process.”

And sadly, we believe the UNHRC also will be labeled “ineffective” in any effort to make the administration see the errors of its ways.

The writer is publisher of NewsAmericasNow.