U.N. Committee on Ending All Forms of Racial Discrimination Calls on the U.S. to End “Operation Streamline” and Criminal Prosecutions of Migrants for Civil Immigration Violations

September 4, 2014

(New York, NY) — Last week, the United Nations CERD Committee released its Concluding Observations, which detail more than twenty areas of unacceptable racial discrimination in the United States. The Observations call for the U.S. Government to “prohibit racial discrimination in all its forms in federal and state legislation, including indirect discrimination, covering all fields of law and public life.”
Specifically, the U.N. Committee called for the U.S. to “ensure that the rights of non-citizens are fully guaranteed in law and practice.” including, but not limited to, “abolishing ‘Operation Streamline’ and dealing with any breaches of immigration law through the civil, rather than the criminal immigration system.”
“Operation Streamline” refers to a controversial U.S. prosecution program through which migrants face criminal charges and incarceration for crossing the border without authorization.
The Concluding Observations follow a two-day review, on August 13 and 14 in Geneva, of the U.S.’s compliance with the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. 
Prior to the review, Justice Strategies and Grassroots Leadership submitted a report to the U.N. Committee detailing how a dramatic rise in the criminal prosecutions of immigrants in the U.S. has led to a boom of segregated, privatized immigration prisons run by U.S. corporations, including the GEO Group and Corrections Corporation of America.
The report examined the sharp increase in the number of migrants, the vast majority being Mexican nationals, who are criminally prosecuted for crossing the border; the increasing racial disparities in the federal prison population resulting from such criminal prosecutions; and the abuse-ridden, for-profit, segregated immigrant prisons where the majority of sentenced migrants are incarcerated. 
“We applaud the recommendations of the UN CERD Committee,” stated Judith Greene, Executive Director of Justice Strategies. “The U.S. government has a responsibility to work to eliminate the systemic racism and human rights violations that plague our criminal justice and immigration enforcement systems. The criminal prosecution of migrants for border crossing and other immigration-related violations has not only needlessly locked away tens of thousands of immigrants in privatized prisons with atrocious conditions, but it has also resulted in glaring racial disparities in the prison system.” 
Bob Libal, Executive Director of Grassroots Leadership, added, “Latinos now make up more than 50% of those entering federal prisons, despite comprising only 16% of the U.S. population, largely because of immigration prosecutions. While Latino immigrants are disproportionately sentenced to prison, for-profit prison corporations are the big winners in this unjust system. We are pleased that the Committee has endorsed our call for the U.S. government to end these senseless prosecutions as soon as possible." 
Justice Strategies, formed as an informal partnership in 2000 and launched as a formal organization in 2003, is a U.S.-based nonprofit research organization dedicated to providing high quality “action research” to advocates and policymakers pursuing more humane and cost-effective approaches to criminal justice and immigration law enforcement. Founded in 1980, Grassroots Leadership is a multi-racial  social justice organization based in the Southern and Southwestern United States that works to end the use of for-profit incarceration and reduce reliance on criminalization and detention through direct action, organizing, research, and public education. 

Judy Greene, Justice Strategies at greenej1@mindspring.com

Bob Libal, Grassroots Leadership atblibal@grassrootsleadership.org