For Immediate Release
US: Arizona Violating Human Rights Treaty
New Immigration Law Contrary to Binding International Anti-Racism Measure
SAN FRANCISCO - Arizona's new immigration law violates an international anti-racism
treaty that is binding on all government officials in the United
States, Human Rights Watch said today.
Key provisions of the "Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act,"
enacted by Arizona on April 23, 2010, conflict with the International
Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination,
which the United States ratified in 1994, Human Rights Watch said.
"LWL - living while Latino - has become hazardous in Arizona," said
Alison Parker, US director at Human Rights Watch. "Arizona's governor
and law enforcement officials should know that with this law, they are
violating an international treaty."
Under the new law, police officers will be empowered to stop and
interrogate any person whom they "reasonably suspect" might be in the
United States illegally. The law includes provisions allowing Arizona
residents who believe the local police are not enforcing the law
vigorously enough to sue a city or town. As a result, police officers
will be under pressure to make an arrest, even when in doubt, rather
than risk a lawsuit, resulting in wrongful arrests and unfair
enforcement, Human Rights Watch said.
While Arizona's governor, Jan Brewer, has required training for
police officers to prevent "racial profiling" - acting on the basis of
racial or ethnic characteristics - police will have little to go on
other than an individual's appearance when choosing whom to stop.
People of Latino descent, whether US citizens, legal residents, or
undocumented persons, will be most at risk.
The Convention against Racial Discrimination requires the federal
and all state and local governments to ensure that their immigration
policies do not have the effect of discriminating against persons on
the basis of race, color, descent, or national or ethnic origin. This
includes ensuring that non-citizens enjoy equal protection and
recognition before the law. The US government is prohibited from
engaging in acts or the practice of racial discrimination against
persons or groups of persons and must "ensure that all public
authorities and public institutions, national and local, shall act in
conformity with this obligation."
In January, the US State Department's legal adviser, Harold Koh,
wrote to all state governors, including Arizona's Brewer, making them
aware of their obligations under the anti-racism treaty. Human Rights
Watch had similarly written to Arizona's attorney general in 2007 about the state's obligations under the treaty.
Human Rights Watch called on the Arizona legislature to revoke the
"Support our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act." In the
meantime, the federal government should take all appropriate steps to
ensure that provisions of the law that violate US treaty obligations
are not enforced, Human Rights Watch said. Any future federal
legislation on immigration should include strong human rights
safeguards, including fair treatment for non-citizens facing
deportation and prohibitions against arbitrary detention.
"There are plenty of valid objections to Arizona's new immigration
law," Parker said. "One that hasn't received much attention is that it
violates an international anti-racism treaty that Arizona state
officials are obligated to uphold."
Human Rights Watch is one of the world's leading independent organizations dedicated to defending and protecting human rights. By focusing international attention where human rights are violated, we give voice to the oppressed and hold oppressors accountable for their crimes. Our rigorous, objective investigations and strategic, targeted advocacy build intense pressure for action and raise the cost of human rights abuse. For 30 years, Human Rights Watch has worked tenaciously to lay the legal and moral groundwork for deep-rooted change and has fought to bring greater justice and security to people around the world.