A project of the Center for Community Change

Prisons still too ashamed to let United Nations in…

We’ve been writing about the visit of Jorge Bustamante, UN Special Rapporteur investigating the treatment of immigrants of the US for the last few weeks. Special Rapporteur’s tour the US to gather information on details on a subject in order to make a report to the international community. President Bush has consistently touted the US immigration system as a model for other countries, so why is the administration blocking Mr. Bustamante being blocked from entering numerous detention sites for immigrants, supposedly the heart of the administration’s system?

Mr. Bustamante’s response to being denied entry: “I am very disappointed…My interpretation is that there is something the government doesn’t want people to see.”

In France about two years ago, an international body of oversight on prison rights did an information collection on the state of French prisons, much akin to Mr. Bustamante’s assignment. The French government allowed the investigators access to their prisons and awaited the results. I remember that the findings were startling- France had some of the worst prisons and worse prisoner treatment in all of Europe. The results were damning, but in the end the country was vindicated because they had opened their doors to judgement, and the French people were given the unadultered truth about their prison system.

Can we demand any less from our government? I think we should ALL know what is happening in our detention centers were children are being imprisoned, pregnant women are not receiving the prenatal care they need, immigrants are being wrongly deported under mistaken identities, US citizen children are being detained, and prisoners are being drugged against their will (and these are only the stoires that have come out in the last 3 months….). Until Mr. Bustamante is allowed full access to US immigration infrastructure we cannot realy say that we have been judged justly, and we cannot really say that our system is fair.

Indeed we know the truth already, the system isn’t fair- the sytem is broken (and I’ll keep saying it again and again…). Our hopes for Mr. Bustamante is that that truth that so many of us know will be shared with the larger international community, and that our brothers and sisters fighitng for immigrants rights in other countries will join in lifting up the rights of all immigrants across all borders.

For more information on Mr. Bustamante and his denial of entry into key locations check out these two article:

UN official denied access to Monmouth County Jail for planned
inspection

Posted by the Asbury Park Press <http://www.app.com>  on 05/14/07

BY BOB JORDAN <MAILTO:NOTMIKE@APP.COM>
FREEHOLD BUREAU

FREEHOLD TOWNSHIP — An independent United Nations inspector on immigrant rights has been denied access for a scheduled visit today to the Monmouth County Correctional Institution, where he was to investigate conditions for immigrant detainees.

“I am very disappointed,” said Mexican national Jorge Bustamante, an expert appointed by the U.N. Human Rights Council to report on human rights violations in specific countries. “My interpretation is that there is something the government doesn’t want people to see.”

Bustamante said he was notified by federal government officials on Sunday that the inspection had been canceled.

The Monmouth County jail is one of the places where accounts of mistreatment are documented in a American Civil Liberties Union-New Jersey report being released this week.

A petition submitted to the ACLU-NJ in June 2006 was signed by 103 immigration detainees in the Monmouth County Correctional Institution describing abusive conditions at the jail, the report says.
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May 15, 2007
U.N. Official Says He’s Been Denied Access to U.S. Immigrant Jails
By JULIA PRESTON
A United Nations human rights official said he was barred from visiting an immigration detention center in New Jersey yesterday. It was the second time he was denied access to an American immigration jail on a weeklong monitoring tour.

The official, Jorge Bustamante, the United Nations special rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, said he was informed over the weekend that his visit to detained immigrants in the Monmouth County Correctional Institution in Freehold, scheduled for yesterday, had been canceled. Mr. Bustamante said he had received no explanation.

Mr. Bustamante was barred from a May 7 visit to the T. Don Hutto Family Detention Center in Taylor, Tex., where illegal immigrant families, including children, are held. Officials of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the federal agency in charge of that center, said they canceled the visit because of a pending lawsuit over conditions there by the American Civil Liberties Union.

In a letter of protest yesterday to Zalmay Khalilzad, the United States ambassador to the United Nations, Mr. Bustamante said the State Department had approved his itinerary.

“My interpretation is that someone in the United States government is not proud of what is happening in those centers,” Mr. Bustamante said in an interview.

A department spokesman, Bill Strassberger, said he understood that the New Jersey visit was canceled by the Monmouth County sheriff, Joseph W. Oxley. Mr. Strassberger confirmed that the State Department had helped arrange Mr. Bustamante’s tour and was disappointed the two visits had not taken place. “We want to show we have nothing to hide,” Mr. Strassberger said.

Undersheriff Cynthia Scott, a spokeswoman for Sheriff Oxley, said Mr. Bustamante had canceled his visit, declining to accept “reasonable conditions” for access. “It was canceled by him, not us,” she said.

Mr. Bustamante was able to visit a federal immigration detention center in Florence, Ariz. He said it appeared clean and “well managed.”
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