International human rights law requires respect for “the inherent dignity of the human person”


    • Conditions for immigrants in detention are prison-like: detained immigrants wear prison uniforms, are subjected to regulations developed for penal institutions and their freedom of movement is restricted.

    • Asylum seekers awaiting adjudication of their applications for asylum and immigrants in civil removal proceedings often are held in state prisons and county jails where they are co-mingled with the criminal population.

    • Reports of poor medical care and unnecessary deaths in immigration custody have received enormous public attention over the past year. Reporters for The New York Times, the Washington Post and CBS News’ “60 Minutes” identified serious problems with the process for authorizing and providing necessary medical and mental health care to immigrants in detention.

    • The UN Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Migrants visited the U.S. in 2007 and issued a report to the Human Rights Council which highlighted the problems of U.S. detention conditions including that “some immigrant detainees spend days in solitary confinement, with overhead lights kept on 24 hours a day, and often in extreme heat and cold.”

Applicable Human Rights Instruments:

• Detained immigrants should "be treated with humanity and with respect for the inherent dignity of the human person" (Article 10-1 ICCPR and UDHR Preamble).

• “No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment” (Articles 5 UDHR and 7 ICCPR).

• Detainees should be treated according to these principles: non-discrimination while in custody, protection against ill-treatment or intimidation as a consequence of complaining, no more restriction than required for safe custody, prompt medical care and attention, access to hygiene and sanitary conditions, and health care (The Standard Minimum Rules and Body of Principles).

International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR)

Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR)

Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners

Body of Principles for the Protection of All Persons under Any Form of Detention or Imprisonment