ACLU Applauds Recommendations And Demands Immediate Action

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE March 7, 2008 CONTACT: Whitney Potter (505) 266 5915 ext. 1003
GENEVA—A United Nations committee today issued a strongly worded critique of the United States’ record on racial discrimination and urged the government to make sweeping reforms to policies and laws affecting racial and ethnic minorities, women, and immigrants in this country. The ACLU called on the U.S. government to take vigorous steps to implement the committee’s recommendations and fulfill its human rights treaty obligations.
“The message from the U.N. human rights committee is clear when it comes to the U.S.’ record on human rights and racial equality – the government can’t just talk the talk but must also walk the walk,” said Jamil Dakwar, Advocacy Director of the ACLU Human Rights Program. “To claim the high moral ground and assert leadership on the issue of human rights, the U.S government must address the systemic discrimination and injustice that exists in its own backyard.”
Representatives of the American Civil Liberties Union were in Geneva last month to testify before the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) on the state of racial and ethnic discrimination in the U.S. The CERD committee, which oversees compliance with an international treaty to end racial discrimination that was ratified by the U.S. in 1994, reviewed testimony and comprehensive “shadow reports” by the ACLU and other human rights groups before issuing its final report.
Among its recommendations, the committee called on the U.S. to:
  • Ban all ethnic and racial profiling practices by federal, state and local law enforcement officers;
  • Address the problem of school-to-prison pipeline – the problematic trend of funneling many minority children into prison – and encourage affirmative action programs;
  • Develop non-penal alternatives to detention to decrease the number of migrants and immigrants in detention;
  • Ensure that all non-citizens detained or arrested in the fight against terrorism are properly protected by domestic law that complies with international human rights, refugee and humanitarian law;
  • Pass legislation enabling all citizens to vote upon release from incarceration;
  • Cease construction of the wall along the U.S. border with Mexico;
  • Address violence against Native, minority and immigrant women, especially women who are migrant workers and domestic workers; and
  • Pass legislation and enforce labor laws to protect migrant workers from racial discrimination.
Also in Geneva today, the U.N. Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Migrants, Jorge Bustamante presented a report on the injustices faced by migrants and immigrants in the U.S., citing immigrant detention policies and facilities that fail to meet international standards and have few protections for the rights of migrant workers.
Last year, Bustamante conducted a three-week fact finding mission at the request of the U.S. government, visiting a detention center in Arizona and meeting with migrant communities, immigrant rights advocates and government officials in California, Arizona, Texas, Georgia, Florida, New York and Washington D.C.. During that time Bustamante was denied entrance to New Jersey’s Monmouth County Correctional Institution and  Texas’s Hutto immigration detention center, a converted prison that houses about 400 immigrants [check the number], including children and asylum seekers. In 2007, the ACLU filed successful federal lawsuits on behalf of 12 children detained at the Hutto facility, charging that the children were subject to inhumane treatment. The U.S. has a history of blocking international experts from access to controversial detention facilities.
“Racially discriminatory practices are still rampant in New Mexico, most notably in the continued practice of local police enforcement of immigration laws,” according to Maria Nape, director of the ACLU of New Mexico’s Southern Regional Office and Border Rights Project.   “Racial profiling and blatant constitutional violations against our immigrant communities should not be tolerated.  We will continue to urge governments at every level to adopt humane policies that do not unfairly target racial or ethnic minorities.”
The Special Rapporteur’s report highlights eliminating mandatory detention of undocumented immigrants and determining whether non-citizens pose a risk to society on a case-by-case basis; and allowing immigrants in detention the chance to have their custody reviewed before an immigration judge.
The ACLU’s report on the state of racial discrimination in the U.S. and other relevant documents can be found online