Promoting Human Rights in the United States: Immigration and Immigrants

The clinic's Promoting Human Rights In the United States program has three purposes. First, it harmonizes the law, policies, and practices of national, state, and local governments with the United States' legal obligations under international human rights law. Second, it engages U.S. policymakers at all levels with international human rights standards and principles to develop and implement programs that incorporate universal norms into the domestic context. Finally, it improves policy effectiveness, by exposing U.S. decision-makers to the ways other countries have addressed similar policy challenges.

The program currently focuses on improving human rights protections for immigrants in the United States.

 

Immigration Policy and Human Rights

UC Berkeley recently established an Undocumented Student Program , the first of its kind in the nation, to provide comprehensive support services to the over 200 undocumented students on the Cal campus. The Clinic has taken the lead in coordinating the legal support component of the program with clinic students providing information about immigration law through informational workshops, weekly office hours, and placement of individual cases with pro bono attorneys for representation.

Please contact the legal program at dreamers@boalthall.berkeley.edu for more information.

Immigrants are currently being detained and deported at the highest annual rate in U.S. history. Immigration enforcement initiatives such as Secure Communities, which targets “criminal aliens,” blur the lines between local police and federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), making non-citizens vulnerable to racial profiling and pre-textual arrests.

Local authorities have granted a coalition of legal service providers, including the Clinic, access to the main detention center for ICE operations in Northern California. The facility houses approximately 100-200 immigrant detainees at any given time. Clinic students present a regular Legal Orientation Program inside the facility to educate detainees about their rights and potential forms of relief from deportation and to screen cases for possible representation by pro bono partners. The Clinic also provides support to advocacy efforts to improve conditions and legal protections for immigrant detainees

 

Human Rights in California's Central Valley

One of the richest agricultural regions in the world, California’s Central Valley stretches 450 miles through the heart of the state and is home to one sixth of the state’s population. While California is the eighth largest economy in the world, the Central Valley struggles with unemployment and poverty rates that are far above, in some counties more than double, the state average. The region is also plagued with levels of air and water quality which violate various federal and state health standards. Many of these communities lack basic infrastructure, clean water, and access to social services. Residents are frequently excluded from political decisions that profoundly impact their day-to-day lives. The conflation of environmental and socio-economic factors results in serious health disparities for low-income communities of color. The Clinic is extending and supporting residents’ advocacy efforts with the aim of both achieving concrete improvements in living conditions and health and developing a replicable model for using human rights to stimulate change at the local and state levels.

The Clinic is conducting background research to draft a shadow report to the U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, which monitors compliance with the international treaty on racial discrimination and will review the United States’ record on racial equality in 2014. The report will identify a range of rights abuses against communities of color in the Central Valley which implicate health and well-being and outline recommendations to prevent and remedy such abuses.

Water access and quality is a central issue to the well-being of marginalized communities in California. The U.N. Special Rapporteur on the human right to safe drinking water and sanitation visited California during an official mission to the U.S. in 2011 and reported to the Human Rights Council on numerous barriers to clean water and sanitation facing diverse populations, including small, rural communities, homeless persons, and indigenous groups. In 2012, the Clinic began a collaboration with the Safe Water Alliance, a coalition of faith-based, environmental justice, tribal, consumer, and public health advocates that represent communities across California, to lend support to efforts to ensure universal access to clean water from a human rights perspective.

On September 12, 2012, Governor Brown signed in to law AB 685, making California the first state in the nation to legislatively recognize the human right to water. AB 685 aims to ensure universal access to safe water by declaring that “every human being has the right to safe, clean, affordable, and accessible water.” In May 2013, the Clinic released a new report The Human Right to Water Bill in California: An Implementation Framework for State Agencies. The report draws on domestic and international law to map when state agencies should consider the human right to water, what factors they should consider, and how they should advance the human right to water. The Special Rapporteur’s Legal Adviser, Dr. Inga Winkler, was in residence with the Clinic during 2012 and provided important insight and expertise in to the research and drafting of the report. For more information about the report, please visit our news page.

 

Human Rights and U.S. Immigration Reform

In March 2010, the clinic released a policy brief, “In the Child’s Best Interest? The Consequences of Losing a Lawful Immigrant Parent to Deportation,” that estimates that the U.S. deported the lawful permanent resident parents of more than 100,000 children between 1997 and 2007. The vast majority, at least 88,000, of those children are U.S. citizens. The report analyzes the impact of parental deportation from a human rights perspective. It found that adverse consequences of parental deportation include psychological harm, behavioral changes, and disruptions in education for tens of thousands of citizen children left behind.

The policy brief, which suggests immigration law reforms, was a joint project of the clinic and the Chief Justice Earl Warren Institute on Race, Ethnicity and Diversity at the University of California, Berkeley, School of Law; and the Immigration Law Clinic, University of California, Davis, School of Law. Read more about this on the Resources and Publications page by clicking here.

briefing paper at a hearing before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in Washington, D.C. which analyzes the human rights impact of the hurricanes. Students advocated for domestic initiatives to address human rights vulnerabilities and participated in a congressional briefing on natural disasters and human rights. Students met with selected congressional staff members to educate lawmakers about the human rights dimensions of the disaster. Clinic student also wrote a shadow report analyzing U.S. compliance with its treaty obligations toward hurricane survivors for the United Nations Human Rights Committee which was submitted in June 2006.

Clinic students initiated litigation before the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights against the United States for its exclusion of certain categories of immigrant survivors of Hurricane Katrina from federal disaster assistance. The clinic requested injunctive measures and asked the Commission to order the United States to take immediate steps to protect the right to life of these immigrants. In response to the clinic's request, in June 2006, the Inter-American Commission requested information from the United States on three key issues: (i) the availability of emergency information and alerts in languages other than English, (ii) immigrants access to health care in the disaster zone and (iii) the due process guarantees provided to immigrants detained by authorities including information regarding consular assistance.

 

Human Rights Study on Latino Workers

Clinic students worked with Tulane University's Payson Center and UC Berkeley's Human Rights Center to conduct an empirical study of the nature and extent of exploitation faced by workers in the Gulf Coast area in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. The report, "Rebuilding after Katrina: A Population-Based Study of Labor and Human Rights in New Orleans" confirmed anecdotal evidence that undocumented workers are being abused even as they provide critical help to rebuild New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. The study documented the vulnerability of undocumented workers, including severely reduced access to health care, wage discrepancy and unsafe working conditions. Students assisted in the study design and administration. Clinic students traveled to New Orleans and interviewed hundreds of workers for the study. The report received national attention and strengthens the work of domestic groups and policymakers at the local, state, and national levels to incorporate a human rights perspective to address immigrant worker exploitation.

This project was supported by the Koret Foundation.

 

Forced Labor and Slavery Project

Clinic students worked with UC Berkeley's Human Rights Center to complete the first report on forced labor in the United States.

On September 23, 2004 the Human Rights Center released the report, Hidden Slaves: Forced Labor in the United States. The study measures forced labor in this country as well as illuminates its human costs; the nature of the U.S. legal response; and the barriers to, and best practices supporting, eradication of forced labor.

The report, featured on ABC's "Nightline," provides disturbing details of how individuals across the United States are forced through threats or violence to work in deplorable conditions for little or no pay.

The study documents incidences of forced labor in at least 90 cities across the United States. The data also suggests that at any given time 100,000 or more people are forced to toil in sweat shops, clean homes, labor on farms, or work as prostitutes or strippers. The report covers the period of 1998 to 2003 and is based on quantitative and qualitative data, including a survey of 49 service providers experienced in forced labor cases; an analysis of 131 cases of forced labor reported in U.S. newspapers; eight case studies of forced labor in various regions of the United States; and key informant interviews.

To eradicate forced labor, the study recommends launching a broad-based public awareness campaign; improving monitoring of industries vulnerable to forced labor; increasing training and coordination among law enforcement officials in the United States; and strengthening protections for survivors of forced labor.

This project was supported by the Sandler Family Supporting Foundation.

 

Anti-Trafficking Law in California

On September 21st, 2005 Governor Schwarzenegger signed into law two bills designed to combat human trafficking and modern-day slavery. The clinic served as legislative counsel to the California Anti-trafficking Initiative, a statewide coalition of service providers that proposed the legislation. The California Trafficking Victims' Protection Act, AB22, and the related bill SB180, criminalize trafficking as a felony, establish a privilege clause between victim and counselor to facilitate trust-building, provide civil remedies that allow victims of trafficking to receive compensation for damages suffered, and create a statewide task force to review and make recommendations about ways to improve the statewide response to human trafficking. To date the bills are the most comprehensive state legislation enacted in the United States to combat modern-day slavery. The legislation builds on two research studies on forced labor published in 2004, "Hidden Slaves: Forced Labor in the United States," and 2005, "Freedom Denied: Forced Labor in California," by UC Berkeley's Human Rights Center, in which clinic students participated.

 

U.S.-Mexico Anti-Trafficking Working Group

In April 2004, the Clinic and UC Berkeley's Human Rights Center convened a conference of international anti-trafficking experts to strengthen protections for Mexican victims of human trafficking. Clinic research on forced labor in the United States indicates that hundreds and possibly thousands of Mexican men, women, and children are trafficked into this country each year and forced to work in brothels, agriculture, and sweatshops as modern day slaves. Yet even when victims manage to escape or are rescued, their ordeal is not over. Family members of survivors who prosecute their perpetrators have been intimidated or attacked in home countries. Fear of reprisal against family members in the survivors' home country once perpetrators are released from prison in the United States is an on-going concern to survivors and delays their rehabilitation. Similarly, fear that law enforcement will be unable to protect them or their families discourages many victims from assisting in prosecution of their traffickers.

 Clinic interns presented their research, Transnational Frameworks for Prosecuting Traffickers and Protecting Survivors. The paper sets forth the legal framework for transnational prosecutions of Mexican traffickers, protection measures available to survivors in Mexico and the United States, as well as international models for protecting victim of this illicit trade. Conference participants included officials from the Mexican and U.S. governments, service providers and human rights advocates in both countries, and trafficking survivors. The final conference report (in English and Spanish) includes policy recommendations to improve protection and support for Mexican nationals trafficked to the United States.

The Conference was supported by the Ford Foundation, Sandler Family Supporting Foundation, Townsend Center for the Humanities, War Crimes Documentation Center, and the Wang Family Foundation.

 

Human Rights Protections for Domestic Workers

In November 2003, clinic students, in collaboration with UC Berkeley's Human Rights Center produced a policy paper, Left Out: Assessing the Rights of Migrant Domestic Workers in the United States, Seeking Alternatives. This paper includes a comprehensive normative analysis of federal law regarding immigration and trafficking, as well as of federal, California, and local law on labor and employment, in order to identify gaps in protections for domestic workers. It also surveys strategies utilized by cities, countries, and international organizations to address the struggles of domestic workers. The clinic's analysis supports efforts by human rights and labor advocates to initiate legal reforms to protect this vulnerable population of workers.

 

Due Process Rights and Detention of Asylum Seekers in Expedited Removal Proceedings

The clinic participated in an award-winning multidisciplinary project to examine the effects of expedited removal on people seeking asylum in the United States. This project arose out of a Congressionally-mandated study conducted by the clinic and other partners for the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, an independent, bipartisan, federal agency. Students who worked on the expedited removal project had unprecedented access to Department of Homeland Security and Department of Justice activities and records, including inspections at ports of entry and detention decisions and conditions. The study was recognized with the 2005 Arthur Helton Human Rights Award by the American Immigration Lawyers Association. Download Volume I (Findings and Recommendations), Volume II (Expert Reports), and biographies of the experts who contributed to the study.

 

Asylum & Religious Persecution

Individuals fleeing religious persecution face particular legal hurdles to establishing protection. This has been an underdeveloped area of asylum law, and only recently have international standards to adjudicate claims of individuals fleeing religious persecution been promulgated.

To promote uniform application of the international Refugee Convention, clinic students in fall 2003 prepared a comprehensive analysis and review of asylum jurisprudence regarding religion-based claims in the United States. This evaluation informed efforts by the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom to develop training materials for U.S. asylum adjudicators.

 

Refugee Resettlement

Refugees who escape persecution may find safe haven in the United States through a program known as refugee resettlement. The United States admits refugees according to a complex set of criteria determined by the United States and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. Yet this vital tool of refugee protection has not been fully utilized. In recent years, the United States has admitted very few refugees under this program because of security and other concerns.

In fall 2003, clinic students worked to influence U.S. refugee policy by conducting a study of the treatment of refugees currently hosted in countries of first asylum, where there are reports of religious persecution. Based on their report, students developed an advocacy strategy to urge the United States to assert leadership and resettle refugees who are at risk or suffering persecution in countries of first asylum.

 

Supporting Gay and Lesbian Asylum-Seekers from Mexico

While representing two gay asylum seekers from Mexico in spring 1998, the clinic became aware of a report commissioned by the INS regarding the treatment of homosexuals in Mexico, which was released in April 1998. In response, clinic students drafted an analysis of the INS report. The purpose of the clinic's analysis is to provide additional sources of evidence that complement, supplement or contradict information contained in the INS report regarding the treatment of sexual minorities in Mexico, which helps support asylum claims of gays and lesbians from Mexico.

 

Death Penalty and Human Rights

In conjunction with the law school's Death Penalty Clinic, students in the International Human Rights Law Clinic prepared model briefs based on international law to be used in the defense of two death row inmates represented by the Death Penalty Clinic. Recent Supreme Court decisions in capital cases recognize international norms as increasingly relevant. The students crafted novel arguments alleging that common practices in the U.S. capital punishment system (e.g. capital charging techniques, the felony murder rule, and the system of elected judges) violate international human rights standards. The students' work contributes to the defense of the Death Penalty Clinic's clients and also assists defense attorneys around the country seeking to provide a more effective defense of their clients' human rights.

Clinic students worked with to complete the first report on forced labor in the United States. On September 21st, 2005 Governor Schwarzenegger signed into law two bills designed to combat human trafficking and modern-day slavery. The clinic served as legislative counsel to the , a statewide coalition of service providers that proposed the legislation. The California Trafficking Victims' Protection Act, AB22, and the related bill SB180, criminalize trafficking as a felony, establish a privilege clause between victim and counselor to facilitate trust-building, provide civil remedies that allow victims of trafficking to receive compensation for damages suffered, and create a statewide task force to review and make recommendations about ways to improve the statewide response to human trafficking. To date the bills are the most comprehensive enacted in the United States to combat modern-day slavery. In April 2004, the Clinic and convened a conference of international anti-trafficking experts to strengthen protections for Mexican victims of human trafficking.

Clinic research on forced labor in the United States indicates that hundreds and possibly thousands of Mexican men, women, and children are trafficked into this country each year and forced to work in brothels, agriculture, and sweatshops as modern day slaves. Yet even when victims manage to escape or are rescued, their ordeal is not over. Family members of survivors who prosecute their perpetrators have been intimidated or attacked in home countries. Fear of reprisal against family members in the survivors' home country once perpetrators are released from prison in the United States is an on-going concern to survivors and delays their rehabilitation. Similarly, fear that law enforcement will be unable to protect them or their families discourages many victims from assisting in prosecution of their traffickers. In November 2003, clinic students, in collaboration with produced a policy paper, This paper includes a comprehensive normative analysis of federal law regarding immigration and trafficking, as well as of federal, California, and local law on labor and employment, in order to identify gaps in protections for domestic workers. It also surveys strategies utilized by cities, countries, and international organizations to address the struggles of domestic workers. The clinic's analysis supports efforts by human rights and labor advocates to initiate legal reforms to protect this vulnerable population of workers. The clinic participated in an award-winning multidisciplinary project to examine the effects of expedited removal on people seeking asylum in the United States.

This project arose out of a Congressionally-mandated study conducted by the clinic and other partners for the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, an independent, bipartisan, federal agency. Students who worked on the expedited removal project had unprecedented access to Department of Homeland Security and Department of Justice activities and records, including inspections at ports of entry and detention decisions and conditions. The study was recognized with the 2005 Arthur Helton Human Rights Award by the American Immigration Lawyers Association. Download (Findings and Recommendations), (Expert Reports), and . Individuals fleeing religious persecution face particular legal hurdles to establishing protection. This has been an underdeveloped area of asylum law, and only recently have international standards to adjudicate claims of individuals fleeing religious persecution been promulgated.

Refugees who escape persecution may find safe haven in the United States through a program known as refugee resettlement. The United States admits refugees according to a complex set of criteria determined by the United States and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. Yet this vital tool of refugee protection has not been fully utilized. In recent years, the United States has admitted very few refugees under this program because of security and other concerns. While representing two gay asylum seekers from Mexico in spring 1998, the clinic became aware of a report commissioned by the INS regarding the treatment of homosexuals in Mexico, which was released in April 1998. In response, clinic students drafted an analysis of the INS report. The purpose of the clinic's analysis is to provide additional sources of evidence that complement, supplement or contradict information contained in the INS report regarding the treatment of sexual minorities in Mexico, which helps support asylum claims of gays and lesbians from Mexico.

In conjunction with the law school's , students in the International Human Rights Law Clinic prepared model briefs based on international law to be used in the defense of two death row inmates represented by the Death Penalty Clinic. Recent Supreme Court decisions in capital cases recognize international norms as increasingly relevant. The students crafted novel arguments alleging that common practices in the U.S. capital punishment system (e.g. capital charging techniques, the felony murder rule, and the system of elected judges) violate international human rights standards. The students' work contributes to the defense of the Death Penalty Clinic's clients and also assists defense attorneys around the country seeking to provide a more effective defense of their clients' human rights.