Written by Gigi Bonnici, IDC Americas Regional Coordinator & Mia-lia Boua Kiernan, IDC Communications & Engagement Coordinator

In June 2021 at hearing before the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights (IACHR) included a civil society cohort of speakers from Project South, Detention Watch Network, and the Transnational Legal Clinic who highlighted abuse happening in detention centres in Georgia and across the United States, and spoke to the following violations of the American declaration and other rights declarations inherent in the US system of immigration detention:

  • Right to dignity and security of person
  • Right to health
  • Right to freedom from forced labour
  • Right to the protection of family life
  • Right to due process
  • Right to seek asylum
  • Right to freedom of expression
  • Right to non-discrimination
  • Right to freedom from retaliation

A quote from a recent Center for Victims of Torture report was referred to ahead of the cohort’s requests of the IACHR: “The system of immigrant detention is inherently violative of the United States’ obligations under the Convention Against Torture (CAT) and other international human rights treaties and norms. It is not enough to talk of standards, as standards have done little to protect those taken into ICE custody and locked away in detention centres across the United States.” The cohort then called upon the IACHR to urge the United States to bring an end to immigrant detention. 

The IACHR also heard directly from survivor of immigration detention Wendy Dowe, about the abuse and forced sterilisation she suffered at Georgia’s Irwin County Detention Center in 2018: “From the day I entered Irwin County, it was like I was in hell. The next person, the next woman, the next mother, the next child, does not have to go through this suffering that me and my family have been through. I’m asking for it to stop, for nobody else to go through this type of abuse.”

Wendy Dowe testifying before the IACHR

IDC’s member Detention Watch Network also shared concerning numbers including the expansion of the immigration detention system in the US over the past 20 years, which now includes over 200 detention centres and jails around the country that detain up to 500,000 people each year: “These experiences that you’ve heard should shock the conscious. Unfortunately these experiences are not unique to the state of Georgia. They are emblematic of the entire US immigration detention system, which is a part of the US system of mass incarceration that has a disproportionate impact on people of colour, and in particular on Black people.”

IDC stands in solidarity with its US members and partners in their work to end the immigration detention system in the US. View the hearing in full here.