US Immigration Measures Undermine Human Rights

Venezuelans, displaced from the United States, refugees in Reynosa, a border city in the northern Mexican state of Tamaulipas. In their defense, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights stresses that everyone has the right to request asylum. Photo: Alejandro Cartagena/IOM


HAVANA TIMES – The new border control measures ordered by the United States government may undermine the foundations of international human rights and refugee law, warned the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Volker Türk.

“These measures seem to be in contradiction with the prohibition of collective expulsion and the principle of non-refoulement,” Türk said in a statement released by his office (Acnudh) on January 11th in this Swiss city.

“The right to request asylum is a human right, regardless of a person’s origin, immigration status or how they arrived at an international border,” he said.

Announced changes to US border control measures include increased use of expedited removals and expanded use of Title 42 of the US public health order.

In this way, some 30,000 Venezuelans, Haitians, Cubans, and Nicaraguans can be expelled to Mexico by fast track each month.

Title 42 has already been used by US immigration officials some 2.5 million times at the southern border to remove people to Mexico or their country of origin.

These expulsions have been carried out “without an individualized evaluation of all the person’s protection needs accompanied by the due procedural guarantees,” according to Acnudh.

At the same time, the so-called temporary “Humanitarian Permit Program”, which previously extended to Venezuelans, will be expanded to include nationals of Cuba, Haiti and Nicaragua, by order of President Joe Biden.

That program should allow some 30,000 people from those four countries to enter the United States each month, for a limited period of two years, with strict eligibility conditions. “The right to request asylum is a human right, regardless of the origin of the person, their immigration status or how they arrived at an international border”, noted Volker Türk.

But Acnudh stressed that a selective program cannot replace the right of all, a position also held by the United Nations Agency for Refugees (Acnur).

Türk said that “while I welcome the steps to create and expand safe and regular pathways, these initiatives must not be detrimental to fundamental human rights, including the right to seek asylum and the right to an individual assessment of protection needs.”

“Limited access to temporary humanitarian status for nationals of some countries should not be a substitute for defending the rights of all to seek protection of their human rights,” the high commissioner added.

He also expressed concern that those most in need of asylum and those in vulnerable situations are unlikely to meet the restrictive requirements for temporary humanitarian parole, including having a financial sponsor in the United States.

For all these reasons, he reiterated his call to respect and protect the human rights of all refugees and migrants at international borders.

“We hear a lot about migration crises, but in reality, it is the migrants who are often truly in crisis,” Türk said.

He concluded his statement by saying that “instead of vilifying them and stripping them of long-recognized rights, we should try to administer migration in a humane and safe way, fully respecting the human rights of all people.”

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