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Interactive Dialogue with the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention
September 12, 2017

HRC 36:  Interactive Dialogue with the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention

U.S. Statement as Country Concerned, as delivered by Mark Cassayre

Human Rights Council 36th Session
Geneva, September 12, 2017

Thank you Mr. Vice-President.  We thank the Working Group for its visit to the United States and encourage other states to welcome the Working Group as well.

The United States thanks the Working Group for its positive review of changes in the U.S. efforts to reform the justice system in relation to the deprivation of liberty.

The United States appreciates the Working Group’s encouraging remarks regarding onsite availability of pro bono legal representation, particularly through clinics and civil society organizations.  The United States further notes that immigrants who are taken into custody or placed into formal removal proceedings are afforded the opportunity to retain legal representation; interpretation assistance and other services are made available at the appropriate junctures.

The United States notes that the Working Group’s categorization of detention practices in the United States does not accurately reflect the state of international law, including for the purposes of administrative detention, mandatory detention, and expedited removal.  Convicted criminals and other persons held in government custody in the United States enjoy the protections of the U.S. Constitution, including the Bill of Rights, and relevant statutes both at the federal and state level.  Consistent with international human rights obligations, these laws provide procedural safeguards and respect for individual rights.  Any prisoner in the United States may appeal to the federal and state court systems for vindication of those rights.  Furthermore, we comply with all constitutional and statutory requirements regarding immigration detention and respect the ability of individuals to seek asylum.

The United States is concerned by certain unsupported assertions in the report about the operation of the U.S. criminal justice system.  We regret that the Working Group relies on those representations to recommend changes to practices in the United States based on their own preferred policies, rather than on the basis of international law.  The United States is not under any obligation to act on recommendations which represent merely differences of policy preferences; the rights guaranteed in U.S. law and adjudicated by the U.S. judicial system reflect our commitment to implementing U.S. obligations under international law and our dedication to human rights.

The Working Group’s report noted non-English language access concerns, including “the lack of books or information in other languages.”  The Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Language Access Plan sets forth the standards, principles, and guidelines through which the United States provides meaningful access programs for individuals with limited or no proficiency in English.  In addition, numerous critical documents, such as the detainee handbook, are translated into many of the languages most frequently encountered in the detention system, and reading materials are available to detainees in a variety of languages.  The federal government also provides language services to detainees and residents at detention facilities and residential centers through interpretive services.

The United States remains committed to upholding the safety of unaccompanied alien children, and as such, an unaccompanied alien child may be housed in an appropriate facility until such a time as a suitable sponsor can be found to ensure safe custody and care.  We work to ensure family unity of parents or legal guardians and children, barring specific concerns such as serious safety, criminal records, and/or national security related concerns.

Once again, we thank the Working Group for their productive visit to the United States.