Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] published a report [report, PDF] Wednesday accusing the US Border Patrol and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) [official websites] of discriminating and committing rights abuses along the border between Mexico and the US. AI claims that discriminatory practices and harsh policies responding to immigration by US officials results in the deaths of hundreds each year, and that as many as 5,287 died crossing the border between 1998 and 2008. In a release [group news article] accompanying the report, the group said that the US is "failing in its obligations under international law to ensure" human rights to illegal immigrants within its borders. The report is critical of both federal policy and enforcement as well as those of border states, particularly Texas and Arizona. AI enumerated the responsibilities the US has under international law with respect to immigration:
The US government has an obligation under international human rights law to ensure that its laws, policies and practices do not place immigrants at an increased risk of human rights abuses. This includes acting with due diligence to investigate and punish criminal conduct, such as domestic violence or human trafficking, committed by private individuals, and guaranteeing access to justice for immigrant victims of crime.Department of Homeland Security (DHS) [official website] spokesman Matt Chandler responded to the report [Reuters report] by claiming that AI was basing its report on "outdated information or anonymous anecdotes" and further criticized it as not offering "actionable recommendations for improvement." AI recommends that all immigration enforcement programs should be suspended until a review can be conducted by the DHS Inspector General.
The report comes as a general movement has been sweeping the country toward tougher enforcement of immigration policy. The trend began with a controversial law in Arizona [JURIST news archive], and similar legislation has passed in Utah, South Carolina and Indiana [JURIST reports]. In December the Supreme Court granted certiorari to determine whether Arizona's controversial immigration law is preempted by federal law [JURIST report]. In November the US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] urged the Supreme Court not to hear Arizona's appeal [JURIST report]. The Supreme Court in May ruled in Chamber of Commerce v. Whiting [Cornell LII backgrounder] that Arizona's controversial employment-related immigration law is not preempted [JURIST report] by the federal Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA).