U.S. Should Take Action to Protect Human Rights of Migrants

Washington, D.C. – On International Migrants Day, Human Rights First calls on the United States and all states to protect the human rights of migrants and to reform policies and practices that leave migrants vulnerable to violence, arbitrary detention and a lack of access to mechanisms for protecting their human rights. Around the world, and here in the United States, asylum seekers, refugees and migrants are sometimes detained despite the existence of more cost-effective and rights-respecting alternatives, held in jails and jail-like facilities and denied prompt court review of their immigration detention. The United States has set a poor example for other states by detaining migrants in jail-like facilities and limiting access to asylum through interdiction policies and other barriers. Migrants and refugees can be particularly vulnerable in border regions, at sea, and during wars and emergencies. They are sometimes the targets of xenophobic violence and the risks they face are escalating with the rise in xenophobic rhetoric in many countries. Unaccompanied minors can face particular risks when in transit as well as once in the country of destination, and in some locations, migrants are frequently subjected to sexual and gender-based violence when crossing borders through irregular channels. Migrants who lack legal status also struggle to access recourse when subjected to xenophobic attacks or sexual and gender-based violence as they may be unlikely to report violent attacks to the authorities for fear of being detained and deported. Over the next year, the United States will have some important opportunities to reform its domestic immigration policies and to shape international dialogues relating to migration and human rights. The United States should – both at home and abroad – lead the international community in establishing mechanisms to protect the human rights of vulnerable migrants. The United States should, among other steps:

  • Reform migration detention policies to consider alternatives before resorting to detention, provide prompt court review of detention, and end the use of jails and jail-like facilities with penal conditions;
  • Protect and urge other states to protect migrants from xenophobic and other violence, and support the capacity of the UN Refugee Agency, other agencies and international organizations to assist victims, advocate with states for better protection, and encourage states to provide access to justice for victims of violence;  and
  • Promote access to asylum and protection, inject safeguards into U.S. interdiction processes, and encourage other states to provide access to asylum and protection.

Published on December 18, 2012


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