Immigrants Deserve Better Human Rights Protections in US Detention: Report from Chicago’s John Marshall Law School and National Immigrant Justice Center

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Adults seeking safe asylum in the United States can be subjected to deplorable conditions in U.S. detention facilities, including psychologically damaging solitary confinement and sexual violence.

Adults seeking safe asylum in the United States can be subjected to deplorable conditions in U.S. detention facilities, including psychologically damaging solitary confinement and sexual violence.

That’s according to a report dated 9/2014, from The John Marshall Law School’s International Human Rights Clinic (IHRC) and the Heartland Alliance’s National Immigrant Justice Center.

“We hope that through our report and similar work we can push for change in increased accountability and better conditions in immigrant detention,” said Sarah Dávila-Ruhaak, director of the IHRC. “Our role as advocates is to highlight practices that are in violation of international human rights and, in some cases, suggest or promote ideas of how human rights can be respected and protected.”

Experts from the IHRC, Heartland, the University of Chicago and the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights discussed several international human rights issues, including the latest developments in immigration detention and recent advocacy efforts to improve detention conditions.

The IHRC and Heartland report found that immigrants held in U.S. detention centers have been victimized by long periods of solitary confinement, sexual assault and other mistreatment, all without the means to a proper investigation and redress. These acts, Dávila-Ruhaak said, directly violate the U.S. government’s international legal responsibilities to prevent torture or ill treatment.

Dávila-Ruhaak said that as part of its international obligations under the Convention Against Torture, the U.S. government should ensure that immigrant detainees are not subjected to inhumane treatment. Under the convention, the government also is obligated to ensure that access to counsel is provided for all detainees and that robust protections must be in place to prevent sexual assault. The IHRC and Heartland have recommended measures to help ensure those obligations, and others, are met.
“These recommendations are not an exhaustive list, but are a start on how to improve immigrant detention for adult detainees,” Dávila-Ruhaak said.

Other recommendations included:

  •     Expand alternatives to detention centers, including exploring an increased use of supervision or secure ankle bracelets.
  •     Ensure access to counsel – “Immigrants have no right to government-appointed counsel and are forced to navigate the complex immigration system with no assistance,” according to the report.

John Marshall and Heartland released their research to draw attention to the U.S. government’s review at the Committee Against Torture during the 53rd Session of the Convention Against Torture, happening on the same day in Geneva.

Click here for a copy of the John Marshall and Heartland report on mistreatment of immigrant detainees. For more information, contact Public Affairs Director Christine Kraly at 312-427-2737 ext. 171 or ckraly@jmls.edu.

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Christine Kraly
The John Marshall Law School
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Marilyn Thomas
The John Marshall Law School
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