Tomorrow, at a hearing before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, the International Federation for Human rights (FIDH) will submit to the Mexican government and the Commission’s experts, evidence of the on-going human rights violations perpetrated against undocumented migrants on their way to the United States. FIDH will base its testimony on the alarming findings contained in its investigative report : “United States - Mexico: Walls, Abuses, and Deaths at the Borders.” From March 12th until March 14th, FIDH representatives will present their fact-finding mission’s conclusions and recommendations to U.S. officials from various offices of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), to U.S. House and Senate Representatives, and to migrants rights groups.
FIDH’s report “Walls, Abuses, and Deaths at the Borders,” is the result of an investigation conducted through 2007 from the southern borders of Mexico to the U.S. states of Arizona and Texas, investigating the rights of undocumented Central American and Mexican migrants traveling to the United States. The report denounces the human rights violations perpetrated against migrants by both the Mexican and the U.S. authorities, in complete impunity. It criticizes both States for enforcing incoherent national migration policies which openly disregard their human rights obligations under national and international law, including the right to life.
As explained by a 28 year-old Central American migrant met by FIDH delegation in Mexico: “There are all kinds of violations of human rights, rapes of women – but everything remains unpunished. There is discrimination against us in the administration of justice. Migrants are considered nothing.” In Mexico, while migrants are crossing the country they are frequently subjected, by the Mexican police and by migrant smugglers, to extortion, threat, beating, sexual harassment, rape, and kidnapping – this in complete impunity and in a corrupted context. In the United States, the government’s policy of “prevention through deterrence,” has resulted in the construction of miles of walls and the heavy militarization of the border, and has been forcing thousands of migrants to travel by feet through the most dangerous and inhospitable deserts of the country, causing hundreds of women, children, and men to die every year, often from dehydration or hypothermia. The deterrence policy deliberately intends – in vain – to dissuade other migrants from crossing the border. In addition, Border Patrol agents utilize verbal harassment, degradation, humiliation, and intimidation along with disproportionate use of deadly force against border crossers, which, in parallel, has led to significant racial profiling in border communities.
In the United States as well as in Mexico, the quasi-systematic detention of migrants is the norm, often in abusive conditions, especially in terms of health care. In Mexico, a current reform proposal would expand the legal categories of indefinite detention of undocumented migrants. In deportation proceedings, and in both countries, due process is shockingly missing: the overwhelming majority of migrants have no legal representation at all, and little or no legal protections such as judicial review. Vulnerable groups, such as children, mothers, disabled persons, and refugees at risk if sent back to their country of origin, are the first victims of such policies.
A deep immigration legislation reform respectful of the human rights of all migrants is a must in Mexico and in the United States. Such reforms should provide for the decriminalization of migrants in irregular administrative situations; end the detention of migrants in prison-like facilities; establish independent mechanisms to prosecute government agents responsible of acts of corruption, abuses, and killings; and restore due process and the right to legal representation in all deportation proceedings.
In the year 2008, marking the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, it is time that government policy-makers stop thinking of migration through the simplifying prism of fear and security, but rather focus on the reasons for migration, on cooperation, and on human rights.