• While international law permits states to establish immigration policies and deportation procedures, it does not grant them discretion to violate human rights in the process. The United States regularly fails to uphold international human rights law in its immigration laws and enforcement policies, by violating the rights of immigrants to fair treatment at the hands of government, to proportional sanctions, to freedom from arbitrary detention, to respect for the right to family unity, and to protection from return to persecution. Such policies violate the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Refugee Convention, treaties to which the United States is party.

  • Mario Chavez shares a moment with his wife, Lizeth Chavez, through the border fence at Playas de Tijuana during a weekend family visit. Mario, a US citizen, cannot not leave the US because of parole restrictions, and Lizeth, a Mexican citizen, does not have a visa to go to the United States.
    The United States government should urgently reform its unfair immigration system to uphold the basic rights of non-citizens and provide a path to legal status for the country’s unauthorized immigrants, Human Rights Watch said in a policy briefing released today. While the Senate and White House proposals are a good start, more attention should be paid to ongoing abuses in enforcement policies.

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Unfair Immigration Policies

  • Sep 9, 2014
  • Aug 14, 2014
    The humanitarian crisis of undocumented Central American children may have faded from the headlines, but the problem has not gone away.
  • Jul 29, 2014
    The US Congress should support greater due process protections for migrant families rather than increasing funding for facilities to detain those crossing the US southern border, Human Rights Watch said today.
  • Jul 25, 2014
    The United States has failed to comply with key protections under the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD), Human Rights Watch said today. The US, which ratified the treaty in 1994, will appear before the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination for a periodic review of its record on August 13 and 14, 2014, in Geneva.
  • Jul 24, 2014
    The public debate over the recent surge in child migrants across the US border with Mexico should spur Congress to reform US immigration policy, Human Rights Watch said today, releasing a multimedia feature jointly with Time magazine and Platon/The People’s Portfolio.
  • Jul 22, 2014
  • Jul 2, 2014
    Human Rights Watch wrote to President Barack Obama to express our serious concern that his proposals for addressing the recent increase in apprehended migrants, particularly unaccompanied minors, at the US-Mexico border, may lead to further serious harm to vulnerable children and families, in violation of international law.
  • Jun 25, 2014
    The United States government’s policy of detaining unaccompanied migrant children, some for long periods, and providing inadequate processing puts them in harm’s way. On June 24, 2014, the US House of Representatives Committee on Homeland Security held a hearing on unaccompanied migrant children – children traveling without parents or guardians. Later today, the House Judiciary Committee will also hold a hearing on the issue.
  • Jun 25, 2014
    There's no reliable evidence that putting families who enter the US illegally into detention centers actually deters unauthorized immigration. But there's plenty of evidence that it can cause children in those families severe harm – from anxiety and depression, to long-term cognitive damage. That's one big reason that family detention for immigration violations is banned under international law.
  • May 19, 2014
    In 1992, Carlos Guillen was arrested in Houston, Texas for possession of drugs with intent to distribute after the police found a significant quantity of cocaine in his home. His brother later admitted that the drugs were his and that he'd stashed them in the house without Mr. Guillen's knowledge. Fearing a protracted court battle, aware that the law was not in his favor, and assured by his attorney that he would get a two-year sentence at most, Mr. Guillen pled guilty. Despite his steady work history, his lack of prior involvement with drugs, and his reputation as a devoted family man, he was sentenced to twenty years in prison.