Press Release

IACHR Visits Southern Border of United States Concerned about Situation of Unaccompanied Children and Families

September 22, 2014

Washington, D.C. – The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) will carry out a visit to the southern border of the United States of America from September 29 to October 2, 2014. The Commission appreciates the cooperation and facilitation provided by the government of the United States of America and by civil society organizations in the planning and preparations for the visit. 

During the last years, the IACHR, through its various mechanisms, has documented with concern the increasing number of persons, including children, fleeing various forms of violence in countries of the Northern Triangle of Central America – El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras - and Mexico, which, among other factors, has led to the current regional humanitarian crisis. Likewise, in its Report on Immigration in the United States: Detention and Due Process, the IACHR has also documented with concern the United States’ response to increasing mixed migratory flows. This response since the mid-1990s has consisted of stepped up efforts to detect, detain and deport migrants in an irregular situation.

As a consequence of the above-mentioned factors, during the last year there has been a dramatic increase in the number of families and children arriving along the U.S.-Mexico border. According to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency, through August 31, 2014 of U.S. fiscal year 2014, which runs from October 1, 2013 to September 30, 2014, the Border Patrol apprehended 66,127 unaccompanied children, far outstripping the already-high number of 38,759 children who were apprehended during fiscal year 2013.  The CBP also reports having apprehended 66,142 family units through August 31, 2014 of fiscal year 2014 along the U.S. southwest border. This number represents an increase of 412% in comparison with the apprehension of family units in fiscal year 2013, of which there were 12,908.

In response to this situation, the IACHR delegation will conduct a visit with the objective of monitoring the human rights situation of unaccompanied children and families who have crossed the southern border of the United States with respect to their apprehension, immigration detention over long periods of time, immigration proceedings, and deportations and removals. In particular, the delegation will analyze the rights to: life, liberty, personal security; family life and protection of the family unit; protection of the child; protection from arbitrary arrest; fair trial and due process of law; equality before law; seek and receive asylum; and the principle of non-refoulement and the right to be free from persecution or torture. 

The delegation will hold meetings and interviews with U.S. federal authorities from various departments and agencies, including the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Health and Human Services; adult and child migrants and refugees being detained along the border; and representatives of civil society organizations, both in McAllen and San Antonio, Texas. The purpose of these meetings and interviews is to gain a better understanding of the human rights challenges and measures taken in order to address this humanitarian crisis, as well as receiving complaints.

The Commission also plans to visit immigration detention centers and other facilities where children and families are detained, as well as migrant shelters operated by civil society organizations. The Commission will be covering ground in the Rio Grande Valley area, which has been the part of the border with the highest number of border crossings of unaccompanied children and families over the past year. The Commission will also carry out activities in McAllen, Harlingen, Karnes City, and San Antonio, Texas.

The delegation that will visit the United States of America is composed of IACHR Second Vice-Chair Felipe González, who also serves as the Rapporteur on the Rights of Migrants and the Country Rapporteur for the United States, and Commissioner Rosa María Ortiz, Rapporteur on the Rights of the Child, and staff members of the Executive Secretariat of the IACHR.

The Inter-American Commission will present its preliminary observations at the end of its visit, during a press conference to be held on Thursday, October 2, at 10 a.m. (Central Time Zone), at Holiday Inn (Fiesta Ballroom), 217 North St. Mary's Street, San Antonio, Texas 78205.

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 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.

* This press release was modified on September 30, 2014.

No. 105/14