PROGRESS REPORT ON THE SITUATION OF MIGRANT WORKERS AND THEIR FAMILIES
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), at its 92nd special session, decided to begin consideration of the issue of migrant workers and their families in the Hemisphere, in order to prepare a report on the matter. The General Assembly of the Organization of American States, at its twenty-eighth regular session, held in Caracas, Venezuela, urged the IACHR to continue to prepare the report on the situation of migrant workers.
The Declaration of Santiago, adopted by the Heads of State and Government participating in the Second Summit of the Americas, reasserts that "respect for and promotion of human rights and the fundamental freedoms of all individuals is a primary concern of our governments." To this end, it was decided to make a special effort to "guarantee the human rights of all migrants, including migrant workers and their families."
In the Plan of Action of the Second Summit of the Americas, the Heads of State and Government agreed, among other things, to "seek full compliance with, and protection of, the human rights of all migrants, including migrant workers, and their families, and adopt effective measures, including the strengthening of public awareness, to prevent and eradicate violations of human rights and eliminate all forms of discrimination against them, particularly racial discrimination, xenophobia, and related intolerance."
Furthermore, the Plan of Action indicates that the states will "support the activities of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights with regard to the protection of the rights of migrant workers and their families, particularly through the Special Rapporteur for Migrant Workers."
In order to prepare the report on migrant workers and their families, the IACHR established a working group headed by Commissioner Alvaro Tirado Mejía, Special Rapporteur for Migrant Workers, Commissioner Jean Joseph Exumé, and attorneys Pablo Saavedra, Bertha Santoscoy, and Relinda Eddie from the Commission's Executive Secretariat.
Within this context and in consideration of the decision taken by the General Assembly of the OAS and the Summit of Heads of State and Government, in 1998 the IACHR conducted various, important activities to further the preparation of the report on migrant workers and their families.
In 1998, the Commission prepared and sent out to the OAS member states an exhaustive questionnaire on the situation of migrant workers and their families in the Hemisphere, the purpose of which is to gain the broadest possible view of de facto and de jure practices related to migration in each state in the Hemisphere. The questionnaires were sent to the member states on May 23, 1998. The states were given until November 1, 1998 to respond. The Commission decided to grant additional time to the states that had not responded to the questionnaire, extending the deadline to April, May, or June 1999, depending on the case. To date, the following states have responded to the questionnaire: Brazil, Colombia, Chile,1 Dominica, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Saint Lucia, Trinidad and Tobago, and Venezuela.
The Commission also prepared and sent out a questionnaire to different inter-governmental and nongovernmental organizations that deal with the issue of migrant workers and their families. To date, only the Mexican Academy of Human Rights has responded.
At the invitation of the Government of the United States, the IACHR made an on-site visit to the state of California from July 6 to 9, in order to observe the processes of immigration and asylum in the region. Furthermore, information was gathered for the report being prepared on migrant workers and their families. The IACHR held meetings with sectors of government, nongovernmental organizations, and representatives of civil society. It also visited several ports of entry and detention center and interviewed detainees.
During its visit to Los Angeles, the Commission's delegation met with Mr. Richard K. Rogers, District Director of the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) of the Justice Department; Mrs. Rosemary Melville, Deputy District Director of the INS and other officials from the Los Angeles office; Mr. Tom Graber, Director of the Los Angeles Airport; and Mr. Art Subia, from INS field operations in Washington, D.C. The Commission also met with the following persons from the Office of the Governor of California; Mr. John Duncan, Director of Industrial Relations, Mr. José Millán, Director of Labor Standards Enforcement, and Mr. Mark Carleson, from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
In San Diego, the Commission met with Mrs. Adele Fasano, Deputy District Director of the INS; Mr. Kim Porter, Assistant to the INS District Director; Mr. Peter Saldiana, Assistant to the Ports Director, San Ysidro; Mrs. Ralia Sarinetti, Assistant to the Ports Director, San Ysidro; Mrs. Sally Carrillo, Assistant to the Director of the Port Area, Otay Mesa; and Phyllis Yodz, Chief Customs Inspector, Otay Mesa; Mr. Kenneth Stitt, Assistant to the Chief of Patrols, Chula Vista; Mr. Mario Villareal, Border Patrol Supervising Agent, Chula Vista; Mr. Tom Wacker, Chief of Border Patrol, El Centro; Mr. Ramón T. Ortega, Deputy Chief of Border Patrol, El Centro; Mr. Héctor Najera Jr., Official Supervisor of Detention and Deportation, El Centro; Mr. T.S. Thorpe, Acting Director of the Calexico Gateway; as well as other INS officials.
During the visit to Los Angeles and San Diego, the Commission's delegation also met with several attorneys, advocates, and representatives from non governmental organizations, including the Human Rights and Constitutional Law Center, the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles (CHIRLA), United Farm Workers (UFW), Rural Legal Assistance of California, the American Friends Service Committee, the North County Health Services Clinic, the State University in San Diego, the School of Public Health and Behavioral Science, and the Research Project on Immigrant Minors.
During the Commission's stay in the area, it visited several ports of entry and detention centers, including those in the Los Angeles Airport, Calexico, Chula Vista, Otay Mesa, San Ysidro, and El Centro, where it interviewed detainees. In El Centro, the Committee spoke with several detainees who had gone on a hunger strike to protest the conditions in which they were being held. During the visits to the centers and ports of entry, the Commission also observed detention and transfer hearings, as well as the procedures followed for persons seeking asylum and immigrants in general.
In California, the Commission received information on issues related to the purpose of its visit, including the mandate of the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), procedures for handling persons requesting asylum and for migrants, Operation Gateway, the procedures for accelerated transfer, in the framework of the Law on Immigration, conditions in detention sites, access to attorneys and legal representation, illicit trafficking in migrants, and alleged human rights abuses, as well as the educational, work, medical, and housing conditions of migrants.
The Commission's delegation was composed of its President, Carlos Ayala Corao, Commission members, Jean Joseph Exumé and Álvaro Tirado Mejía, Special Rapporteur for Migrant Workers. The Commission received technical support from its Executive Secretary, Jorge Taiana, Assistant Executive Secretary, David Padilla; and attorneys Relinda Eddie and Pablo Saavedra. In addition, Ms. Tania Hernández provided administrative support.
During the on-site visits to Peru and Guatemala, the Commission included the issue of migrant workers and their families on its working agenda. In Peru, Commissioner Álvaro Tirado, Special Rapporteur for Migrant Workers, met with representatives of the International Migration Organization, headquartered in Peru. In Guatemala, the IACHR met with representatives of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
In April 1998, the Commission was invited to participate in a seminar on "Migrant Workers and Human Rights" organized by the Grupo de Puebla, sponsored by the United States Department of State and the International Migration Organization. The Commission was also invited to participate in a seminar on "Globalization and International Migration in Latin America and the Caribbean and the Outlook for the Twenty-first Century." On both occasions, the Commission spoke about the mechanisms for protecting and promoting the human rights of migrant workers and their families.
In August 1998, attorney Pablo Saavedra from the Executive Secretariat visited the Research Center on Migration in Latin America (CIMAL) in Santiago, Chile, where he conducted research and collected documents.
To make it possible to properly carry out the activities of the working group of the Special Rapporteur for Migrant Workers, the IACHR established a Voluntary Fund for Migrant Workers and Their Families. That fund is open to contributions from OAS member and permanent observer states, multilateral and international organizations, cooperation agencies, foundations, and private groups.
The Commission, in order to continue its progress in preparing the report on migrant workers and their families, decided to:
1 Chile has only responded to the questionnaire in part.