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Arizona Immigration Law Violates Human Rights, Say UN Experts

by Eliane Engeler

GENEVA - Arizona's new law on illegal immigration could violate international standards that are binding in the United States, six U.N. human rights experts said Tuesday.

Unbidentified immigrant rights activists and community leaders engage in non-violent civil disobedience, by chaining themselves together with lockdown PVC devices, in protest of Arizona's recently enacted SB1070 immigration enforcement law, outside the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Federal Processing and Detention Center, on Thursday, May 6, 2010, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes) The basic human rights regulations, signed by the U.S. and many other nations, regard issues such as discrimination and the terms under which a person can be detained, the experts said.

"A disturbing pattern of legislative activity hostile to ethnic minorities and immigrants has been established with the adoption of an immigration law that may allow for police action targeting individuals on the basis of their perceived ethnic origin," the experts said.

Arizona's new sweeping law targeting illegal immigration has provisions that include requiring police enforcing another law to question a person about his or her immigration status, if there is "reasonable suspicion" that the person is in the United States illegally. It also makes it a state crime to be in the country illegally.

In America, critics have said the law violates the U.S. Constitution's provisions against unreasonable search and seizure and will result in racial profiling of Hispanics. Supporters deny that and say the law will pressure illegal immigrants to leave the country on their own.

In their statement, the six U.N. experts said: "States are required to respect and ensure the human rights of all persons subject to their jurisdiction, without discrimination."

"Relevant international standards require that detention be used only as an exceptional measure, justified, narrowly tailored and proportional in each individual case, and that it be subject to judicial review," the experts said.

The law could result in potential discrimination against Mexicans, indigenous peoples and other minorities in Arizona, the U.N. officials said.

They also said they are concerned about the enactment of a law prohibiting Arizona school programs featuring the histories and cultures of ethnic minorities because everyone has the right to learn about his own cultural and linguistic heritage.

The six U.N. human rights experts, who are unpaid, are

-Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants Jorge Bustamante of Mexico;

-Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance Githu Muigai of Kenya;

-Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous people James Anaya of the United States;

-Independent Expert in the field of cultural rights Farida Shaheed of Pakistan;

-Special Rapporteur on the right to education Vernor Munos Villalobos of Costa Rica; and

-Independent Expert on minority issues Gay McDougall of the United States.

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