IACHR

Press Release

IACHR Expresses Concern over Recent Migration and Asylum Policies and Measures in the United States

June 18, 2018

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María Isabel Rivero
IACHR Press and Communication Office
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mrivero@oas.org

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Washington, D.C. - The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) expresses concern over migration and asylum policies and measures recently adopted in the United States. In this regard, the IACHR condemns the death of Claudia Patricia Gómez González, a 20-year-old Maya-Mam indigenous woman from Guatemala, who was shot and killed by US Border Patrol. Likewise, the IACHR expresses deep concern over the new migration policy known as “zero tolerance” aimed at deterring migration by separating children from their parents, as well as recent legal decisions that restrict access to refugee status on the basis of domestic and gang violence. The IACHR calls on US authorities to prioritize human rights in their policies and practices.

According to publicly available information, on May 23, 2018, a Border Patrol agent fired on a group of people he believed to be undocumented immigrants in Rio Bravo, Texas, close to the border with Mexico. As a result, Claudia Patricia Gómez González was shot in the head and killed. Claudia traveled to the US from Guatemala in search of better opportunities to work and study.  The Commission urges the US authorities to carry out a thorough investigation and to provide a satisfactory and convincing explanation of what happened.

The Commission also expresses its deep concern on the new “zero tolerance” policy announced on April 7, 2018 which states that everyone crossing the border illegally will be prosecuted. Due to this policy, children are being separated from their parents and referred to the Office of Refugee Resettlement where they could be released to an adult sponsor in the US, a foster family, or be held in a shelter. 

The IACHR reaffirms that children have the right not to be separated from their parents because detention is never in the best interest of the child. The Commission requests the US authorities to identify migrant children who require international protection and do not resort to the deprivation of liberty of children in any circumstance, including with the objective of ensuring family unity.

The IACHR reiterates that the non-refoulement principle contained in International Refugee Law establishes the prohibition of expelling or returning persons that in any manner would have their life or freedoms threatened on the basis of race, religion, nationality, social group or political opinion. 

Commissioner Margarette May Macaulay, the IACHR's Country Rapporteur for the United States, highlighted: “Irregular migration is not a crime. States must take into account the best interest of the child. The family is the fundamental unit recognized in national and international human rights law within all democratic States and are legally recognized and protected therein.” 

Commissioner Luis Ernesto Vargas Silva, Rapporteur on the Rights of Migrants, stated: “While States have the right to establish their immigration policies; policies, laws and practices implemented on migration must respect and ensure the human rights of all migrants, which are rights and liberties that derive from human dignity. Immigration policies and practices can never be used as mechanisms to cause cruel, inhuman and degrading treatments, to separate families, to attack children and their families, or to place the lives of persons in need of protection at greater risk. This is just inhuman and above any comprehension.”

 A principal, autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS), the IACHR derives its mandate from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission has a mandate to promote respect for and to defend human rights in the region and acts as a consultative body to the OAS in this area. The Commission is composed of seven independent members who are elected in an individual capacity by the OAS General Assembly and who do not represent their countries of origin or residence.

No. 130/18