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Serious Discrimination Against and Cruel Treatment of Immigrants Fully Expose Hypocrisy of 'US-Style Human Rights'

China Daily | Updated: 2020-07-10 07:30
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US Army Golden Knights paratroopers land on the Ellipse with a US national flag during Independence Day celebrations in Washington, US, July 4, 2020. [Photo/Agencies]

Editor's Note: The China Society for Human Rights Studies on Thursday published an article about the hypocrisy of "US-style human rights". Full text follows:

The United States is a nation mainly composed of immigrants and their descendants. Unfortunately, as time has gone by, the religious, cultural, and racial discrimination against immigrants has kept developing and become increasingly intense. Immigrants who have made a huge contribution to the United States come to be regarded as outsiders who threaten the US political system and burden the country's finances and welfare. Immigrants used to be and will continue to be the victims of exclusion and persecution. Since July 2017, in violation of international human rights laws and international humanitarianism, the US immigration authorities have forcibly separated more than 5,400 children from their parents who are refugees or illegal immigrants in the southern border area, causing the painful separation of families as well as many child deaths in custody. In 2019, a total of 850,000 immigrants were arrested in the southern border area of the United States. Most of them suffered rough, insulting treatment and their human rights were trampled on. Due to its government's ineffective anti-pandemic efforts, the United States has unfortunately seen itself becoming the most seriously-affected country during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, and its immigrant detention centers are the most severely-affected places in the country. Ignoring the risk of spreading the virus, the US government has even forcibly repatriated a large number of illegal immigrants, which has put the people in Central America at higher risk of contracting COVID-19. The US government's policies leading to the violation of the immigrants' rights, especially immigrant children's rights, have been strongly criticized and denounced both in the United States and in the international community.

1. Extremely Harsh Immigration Policies have Caused Severe Discrimination against and Cruel Treatment of Immigrants in the United States

The US government regards illegal immigrants as troublemakers who rob US citizens of their jobs and disrupt their lifestyle. To prevent them from entering and moving around the country, the US government has adopted unprecedentedly severe measures and law-enforcement actions, including excessive use of force, large-scale arrests, forced separation from family members, and arbitrary deportations. Abuses of human rights of migrants and refugees have occurred frequently.

The US government has treated immigrants violently, and arrested and detained immigrants on a large scale in the border areas of the United States. According to statistics, during the first nine months of 2019, the number of immigrants arrested by the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) at the southwestern border of the United States reached as high as 687,000, exceeding the number of arrests in each of the previous five years. These 687,000 arrests included 64,000 immigrant minors who were unaccompanied by a parent or an immediate adult relative. In May 2019 alone, the United States arrested 133,000 immigrants, the highest monthly total of immigrant arrests since 2006. The website of The Washington Post reported on February 22, 2019, that most immigrants arrested and detained by the ICE had no criminal record.

The "zero tolerance" immigration policy has resulted in the separation of children from their parents. Given the US government's "zero tolerance" immigration policy, which began in April 2018, law-enforcement officers at the border arrested refugees and illegal immigrants and forcibly resettled their minor children, causing at least 2,000 children to be separated from their families. On June 2, 2018, the UN Independent Expert on human rights and international solidarity submitted a report in accordance with the UN Human Rights Council's 35/3 resolution, stating that the US government's act of forcibly separating children from their asylum-seeking parents seriously harmed the immigrants' right to life, dignity, freedom, and other human rights. In September 2019, Michelle Bachelet, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, pointed out at the opening ceremony of the 42nd session of the Human Rights Council that the policies currently being implemented in some countries such as the United States greatly increased the risk of violating immigrants' human rights, and that the Unites States' practice of holding migrant minors in detention centers violated the best interest of the child principle, formulated in Article 3:1 of the United Nations Convention for the Rights of the Child (UNCRC). Felipe Gonzalez Morales, the UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, called on the United States to stop detaining immigrant minors, whether accompanied or unaccompanied. According to him, the immigration-induced imprisonment of minors violates international law, harms the minors' wellbeing, and will have long-term serious adverse effects on them, which is not in line with the best interest of the child principle.

Immigrants, including immigrant children, are subjected to inhumane treatment, with their basic human rights, such as the right to life and right to health, being seriously violated. As reported by the website of The New York Times on June 21 and 26, 2019, a report made by an inspector of the Department of Homeland Security exposed that an El Paso border shelter was dangerously overcrowded, with up to 900 immigrants being detained in a detention center designed to accommodate 125 people, and some of them being detained in rooms where they could only stand for days or weeks. When inspecting the detention centers at a Clint border shelter in Texas, an inspection team consisting of lawyers, doctors, and journalists found that migrant children were in a prison-like environment, and more than 300 children were detained in a cell without adult supervision. The website of Time magazine reported on July 10, 2019, that immigration detention centers managed by the ICE and other federal agencies were overcrowded and had poor sanitary conditions. Since 2018, a total of 24 immigrants, including 7 children, have died while being detained at US border shelters. As reported by the website of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on July 8, 2019, Michelle Bachelet, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, felt deeply shocked by the harsh conditions of the detention centers, which were messy, crowded, and short of food and clothing, and pointed out that migrant children there could be subjected to cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment prohibited by international law. The immigrant detention centers of the United States have become the places that are most affected by COVID-19 during the recent pandemic. According to a CBS report released on May 15, 2020, clusters of COVID-19 infections were apparent in the immigrant detention centers of the United States, where at least 986 immigrants had tested positive for COVID-19. The United Nations Special Rapporteur on human rights of migrants Felipe Gonzalez Morales and other UN human rights experts issued a joint statement on April 27, requesting the US government to transfer immigrants from overcrowded and insanitary detention centers. On May 29, 15 experts of the Special Procedures of the United Nations Human Rights Council issued a joint statement urging the United States to take more measures to prevent virus outbreaks in the detention centers.

Asylum-seeking children are subjected to abuse and sexual assault, and the dignity of migrants has been trampled on. As reported by the website of the British newspaper The Independent on May 23, 2018, the number of cases in which US border law-enforcement officers abused asylum-seeking children increased dramatically, and 116 such cases were disclosed with the involved officers being accused of physical, sexual, or psychological abuse of children aged 5 to 17. The website of The New York Times reported on November 12, 2018, that information provided by prosecutors showed that at least 10 people in southern Texas had been abducted, raped, or murdered by border law-enforcement officers in the past four years. As reported by CNN on June 22, 2018, medical records at a child detention center showed that children in custody were forced to be injected with anti-psychotics and sedatives. According to a court record, an 11-year-old girl claimed that she was required to take 10 tablets a day, which caused headaches, loss of appetite, and nausea. At the Shenandoah Valley Juvenile Center in Virginia, children were taunted, stabbed with pens, robbed of clothes and mattresses, and even handcuffed. The website of the United Nations reported on May 21, 2020, that since March, the US government had repatriated at least 1,000 unaccompanied immigrant children to Central and South America regardless of the risk of the pandemic. The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) criticized this move, for it would expose the children to greater danger.

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