Monday, March 10, 2008

Is The United States Shirking its human rights obligations?

A United Nations human rights expert, Jorge A. Bustamante has criticized the United States government for the "mandatory detention of illegal immigrants", claiming that the "overuse of immigration detention in the US violates the spirit of international laws and conventions, and in many cases, also violates the actual letter of those instruments".
Do you agree?


Anonymous said...

I sympathize with the plight of immigrants who have to leave everything they know in search of safety and a better life, even more so after the speaker we heard in class last week. However, in several cases these immigrants are imprisoned because they have violated US laws; if a US citizen were to break the law, the same rules would apply. Granted, immigrants are subject to much harsher sentences than citizens, but I think it is difficult to determine the character and trustworthiness of a person who has recently immigrated and committed a crime. I think US policy includes precautionary measures for safety, not to be cruel.

I understand that situations are circumstantial and many immigrants arrive in the US with nothing but the shirts on their backs. But when I think about the safety of my family members and people I care about, I can't help but to think I'd rather be safe than sorry. This is not to say that I agree with all immigration policy. The fact that many immigrants are detained at a port of entry is terrible, especially when they have done nothing wrong. And I am sure that prison conditions are substantially less than ideal.

I hope we are able to develop a more rapid and effective system for processing asylum cases, but for now I think the courts are getting through them as quickly as possible. Perhaps this author has a solution to offer and doesn't just stop short with a criticism of current US policy.

Ryan said...

It is likely that in certain cases the US' treatment of illegal immigrants violates both the "spirit" and the "actual letter" of international laws and conventions. Bustamante's report rightly draws attention to a serious and timely issue in American society. Bustamante is a "human rights expert," so he presumably understands well the concept of human rights. I believe that the boundaries protecting human rights should not change with time. However, international laws and conventions on some aspects of human rights were drafted decades ago, and the language and ideas used in the discussion of human rights may be outdated. Indeed, as the tactics used by illegal immigrants to gain entry to the US have changed with time, perhaps so should the government's tactics for dealing with illegal immigration.

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