The U.S. government is not meeting its obligations under international law to ensure respect for the rights of immigrants regardless of their legal status, Amnesty International USA says in a report released Wednesday.
The document, In Hostile Terrain: Human Rights Violations in Immigration Enforcement in the U.S. Southwest, contends that federal, state and local authorities are failing to enforce immigration law in a non-discriminatory way.
“All immigrants, irrespective of their legal status, have human rights. This report shows that the U.S.A. is failing in its obligations under international law to ensure these rights,” AIUSA says.
The study cites U.S. government estimates that between 14,500 and 17,500 people are smuggled into the country every year for purposes of sexual or labor exploitation.
While U.S. law authorizes the granting of visas to undocumented migrants who are victims of human trafficking and other crimes, the report found that “immigrants are often fearful of reporting crimes committed against them, because interaction with the police may result in immigration enforcement actions against themselves or others in their household.”
Only 6 percent of the 5,000 visas annually available for survivors of human trafficking are issued, according to AIUSA.
Prevailing negative attitudes about immigration have created “a perfect storm” in which undocumented survivors of human trafficking, domestic abuse and other crimes are increasingly seen as criminals rather than victims, the report’s lead author, Justin Mazzola, said.
AIUSA also faults the federal government for border enforcement measures said to put migrants’ lives at greater risk.
“Recent immigration policy in certain border areas has pushed undocumented immigrants into using dangerous routes through the US desert; hundreds of people die each year as a result,” the organization says.
Nearly 5,300 people died between 1998 and 2008 while trying to enter the U.S. from Mexico.
Among its recommendations, AIUSA urges the U.S. government to suspend all immigration enforcement programs “pending a review by the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General to determine whether the programs can be implemented in a non-discriminatory manner.”
The organization also calls on Washington to ensure “that border policies respect and protect the right to life.”