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|By Felicia Persaud- The United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) last week put the U.S. government in the hot seat as it asked poignant questions about the country’s racially discriminatory immigration practices, particularly those impacting non-citizens of African descent—mainly people from Africa and the Caribbean.
CERD is an international human rights treaty that prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, colour, descent, or national or ethnic origin. The United States signed the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (“ICERD” or “Convention”) in 1966. The United States finally ratified the Convention in 1994 and first reported on its progress in implementing the Convention to the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (“CERD” or “Committee”) in 2000. The government submitted its latest report to the United Nations in June 2021 after the Trump administration failed to file any reports and violated the United States’ obligations to comply with the treaty.
On Aug. 11 and Aug. 12, CERD members, referencing a well-documented history of suffering and human rights abuses at the U.S.-Mexico border and in immigration detention centers throughout the country, asked the U.S. delegation about concrete measures taken to guarantee free and effective access to asylum.
The CERD Committee also questioned U.S. efforts to eliminate racially biased detention practices and laws that particularly harm Black immigrants when compared to other racial groups, keeping them detained for longer periods of time and subjecting them to harsher treatment in immigration detention, including the highest rates of solitary confinement and other forms of torture.
U.N. representatives also raised questions regarding excessive use of force by Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) against Haitian and Cameroonian migrants and the racially inequitable application of Title 42 exemptions—particularly when compared with Ukrainian nationals.
They asked about the systemic targeting of Black immigrants for collective expulsions without access to humanitarian protection, and the devastating impact of the 287(g) program, which relies on racist state and local criminal legal policing to impose the harshest federal immigration penalties.
CERD members asked the U.S. delegation to address the issues of racial profiling, high and inconsistent immigration bonds, and the collateral impacts of racialized criminalization that disproportionately impact migrants of African descent due to the anti-Black racism and implicit bias of local law enforcement, ICE, and CBP.
The CERD committee evaluated the U.S. government’s compliance with its obligation to adopt measures to eliminate racial discrimination under international human rights law.
“We are pleased with the CERD interventions on various systemic patterns of discrimination and erasure of people of Indigenous and African descent. Too often, their realities, particularly those of Black migrants, are either overlooked or nonexistent,” said Guerline Jozef, co-founder and executive director of the Haitian Bridge Alliance. “We are looking forward to the Committee’s conclusions and will continue to advocate and hold the United States accountable to their international and domestic obligations.”
“The CERD review demanded real accountability from the U.S. for these and other abuses against Black immigrants. And it made clear that racial discrimination in our immigration system is a systemic issue that requires a systemic overhaul,” said Anthony Enriquez, vice president of U.S. Advocacy and Litigation at Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights.
“It is well documented that 76% of Black migrants are deported on criminal grounds compared to 45% of the immigrant population overall,” said Nana Gyamfi, executive director of the Black Alliance for Just Immigration. “If you are from the Caribbean, it goes up to an average of 83%. The U.S. continues to implement and promote enforcement priorities and relationships with local law enforcement agencies that openly flaunt its obligations under the CERD convention.”
The U.S. ambassador to the Human Rights Council and head of the delegation, Michèle Taylor, acknowledged that the U.S. needed to do better on eliminating racial discrimination, and was “deeply committed” to using all levers at its disposal to do so.
The U.S. State Department’s Special Representative for Racial Equity and Justice and delegation co-leader, Desirée Cormier Smith, said that the country shared the Committee’s vision for sustained efforts to eliminate racial discrimination. She also expressed sadness that ethnic and racial minority groups still needed to fight for the freedoms enjoyed by the white population.
On Aug. 30, 2022, the Committee will examine the combined periodic reports by the United States on compliance with the Convention. This report supplements the submission of the government with additional information in key areas and offers recommendations that will, if adopted, enhance the government’s ability to comply with ICERD. (The Amsterdam News)