NYU Global Justice Clinic: U.S. Must Release All People from Immigration Detention
May 15, 2020 , Margaret L. Satterthwaite     |    

Global Justice ClinicImmigration and RefugeesDetentionHealthUnited States

The Trump Administration’s Recklessly Deficient Response to the Coronavirus Pandemic Violates International Law

The ongoing immigration detention of thousands of adults and children during the coronavirus pandemic unnecessarily puts lives at risk and violates U.S. obligations under international law. The longstanding crisis conditions in U.S. immigration facilities, including overcrowding, poor hygiene, and inadequate medical care, make such facilities a natural breeding ground for the novel coronavirus.

In a submission to the U.N. Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Migrants, the Global Justice Clinic at NYU School of Law demonstrates that the Trump administration’s recklessly deficient response to the pandemic violates key provisions of international human rights law. The government’s persistent and unnecessary endangerment of those in immigration detention violates their right to inherent dignity and creates conditions constituting ill-treatment. With the administration proving day after day that it is absolutely unwilling to protect those in immigration detention, international law requires that all individuals in immigration detention be swiftly released.

The Global Justice Clinic’s submission also documents the Trump administration’s intertwined polices of immigration detention and family separation. While the administration has formally ended its notorious zero-tolerance policy, families continue to be ripped apart under a de facto policy of family separation. By exploiting criteria aimed to protect children’s best interests, the Trump administration has separated families by flagging parents at unprecedented levels as threats to their children. But a closer look reveals that such designations were often made without sufficient evidence.

Statements from high-level officials in the Trump administration, including President Trump himself, confirm that the purpose of the interrelated policies of immigration detention and family separation is to discourage migration to the United States. But the pursuit of these policies to prevent migration violates the international law obligation not to subject anyone to arbitrary detention. Detention is only permissible when a state provides an appropriate justification for each individual’s detention and no less restrictive alternative exists. The Trump administration’s continued use of immigration policies to discourage migration flagrantly violates this standard.

The Global Justice Clinic calls on the Trump administration to immediately release all persons held in immigration detention. The Trump administration must cease using the cruel policies of family separation and immigration detention to pursue the unlawful objective of discouraging migration.




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