Earlier this year a coalition of human rights organizations from Mexico published a report (in Spanish w/English translation of prologue and executive summary) on human rights abuses in the vast and growing United States migrant detention system. In the beginning of April the Latin American Working Group, of which the Quixote Center is a member, held an information sharing event in DC with authors of the report (video coming soon!). This report is important for many reasons, but is unique in that it relies on the testimonies of migrants who have been through the complex system themselves. The fact that this perspective is novel is an indicator of how marginalized migrant voices have become.
When an undocumented immigrant is pulled into the detention system, she or he faces inhumane detention conditions, irregular (at best) access to due process, and little to no access to the required consular protection. By denying consular protection, detention centers are not in compliance with a series of international agreements that require the consulate of the foreign government (in the case of this report, the Mexican government) to be notified when the United States has detained a citizen of that country. To quote the report, “…to not comply with consular notification is the preamble to a series of violations… mainly the protection to the right of a fair trial and not to be treated in a cruel, inhuman manner” (p. 7).
Not notifying the detainee’s consulate opens the door to violations of human rights including the right to legal representation and access to essential information regarding the detainee’s rights throughout the process. Current US legislation makes it clear that the right to representation will not be guaranteed for migrants who are in the country illegally and, as the report points out, this is a violation of international norms and expectations for these types of cases. All of this has led to inhumane conditions for undocumented migrants, which is another gross violation of international norms and, quite frankly, is evidence of the lack of respect for the Mexican state and its citizens.
It is our hope that this report and the policy work surrounding it will bring to light the violations that occur in the ‘closed system’ of immigrant detention in the United States. The report provides information for raising awareness and ultimately for changing US policy so that detention and deportation of undocumented migrants is done in a way that complies with existing international norms and agreements.