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The United States' Arbitrary Detention at Home and Abroad: Truth and Facts

Updated: 2023-03-30 10:10
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II. Arbitrary detention of immigrants in the United States constitutes serious human rights violations

・ The US detention of immigrants at its domestic facilities is a serious violation of the "no use of torture" rule. Human rights treaties such as the "Torture Convention," customary international law and the laws of different countries all explicitly prohibit the use of torture. The prohibition of torture has also been recognized as a mandatory legal norm by US courts, international tribunals and the International Law Commission, with special reports issued to prevent related incidents. However, numerous cases have shown that the US immigration agencies have violated the law and conducted torture against detained immigrants.

・ In 2018, the US Immigration Council and the US Immigration Lawyers Association filed a complaint with the oversight agencies of the US Department of Homeland Security, detailing DHS policy of family separation at the US border, and its practices of forcing separated families, through extreme coercive means, to give up their legitimate asylum applications in exchange of resettlement, which has seriously violated the prohibition against torture and other abuses, and caused severe sufferings and torture to parents and children forcibly separated.

・ In 2020, the US media revealed that women in custody at the Irwin County Detention Center in Georgia often suffered medical abuse and neglect, and that many received hysterectomies without proper informed consent or despite their strong resistance. The UN Special Rapporteur on Torture and relevant parties have expressed serious concerns on this issue. The UN human rights authority expressed strong condemnation and demanded that the US make an explanation and take corrective actions in accordance with its treaty obligations.

・ The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention has explicitly recognized the conditions that migrants are subjected to while detained in the US as degrading. ICE regularly places migrants in local jails and prisons. Even when migrants are placed into separate immigration detention centers, they still suffer various kinds of physical abuse, including overcrowding, lack of adequate visitation hours, insufficient ventilation, poor food, inadequate water, unclean quarters, malfunctioning toilets, and verbal and physical abuse.

・ There are no specific regulations in the US on how long immigrants should be detained, so the length of detention is decided by the place of detention and economic factors. Some even become indefinite. With limited access to information, the detained immigrants are unable to fight for their legitimate rights. The Center for Victims of Torture notes that indefinite detention has damaging effects on the immune, cardiovascular and central nervous systems, and would cause harmful psychological effects including severe and chronic anxiety and dread, post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and suicide.

・ In March 2022, the Associated Press and CBS News exposed a border detention center for unaccompanied children in the Rio Grande Valley, Texas as disorganized and overcrowded, with a high risk of COVID-19 infection. While US federal law requires that minors should not be held in border detention longer than 72 hours, over 2,000 children have been detained in that facility for more than three days, 39 of them over 15 days. In February 2022 alone, more than 9,400 unaccompanied child immigrants were detained by US border law enforcement and some 4,000 of them were held in border custody for more than 72 hours.

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