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Nº 20/99

Today the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights concluded its on-site visit to El Paso, Texas, USA, at the invitation of the Government of the United States of America, for the purpose of observing and gathering information concerning immigration and asylum processes in that region. The Commission visited El Paso, Texas from July 7 to July 9, 1999.

The Commission’s delegation was composed of Dr. Jean Joseph Exumé, Commission Member; Dr. David J. Padilla, Assistant Executive Secretary; Drs. Relinda Eddie and Pablo Saavedra, human rights attorneys; Ms. Tania Hernandez, administrative assistant; Mr. Gerard François and Ms. Elizabeth Roure, interpreters.

The Commission is an autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS) which was created pursuant to its Charter, to promote the observance and defense of human rights in the Americas, and to serve as a consultative organ to the OAS in these matters. The visit is being conducted within the framework of the OAS Charter, the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man, as well as the Commission’s Statute and its Regulations. These instruments define the international law of human rights within the Inter-American System for persons in the United States of America.

During its stay in El Paso the Commission met with Mr. Luis Garcia, District Director for Immigration and Naturalization El Paso District; Mr. Michael D. Moon, Assistant Chief Patrol Agent of the United States Border Patrol; Mr. Vincent J. Clausen, Assistant District Director for Detention and Deportation for the Department of Justice and the Immigration and Naturalization Service; Mr. Benjamin Rincon Jr., Chief Detention Enforcement Officer of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, El Paso District; Mr. Joseph A. Mongiello, Port Director of the Bridge of the Americas Port of Entry; Ms. Isabel Mullens, Port Director of Paso del Norte Port of Entry; Mr. Richard Duran, Port Director of Ysleta, Zaragoza Port of Entry; and Ms. Barbara A. Hall, Program Director of the Southwest Key Juvenile Center.

The Commission also met with Mr. Antonio Rocco Scandiffio, Program Coordinator and other staff members from the State of Texas Workforce Commission; and with Mary Lou Morales, Assistant Director of Nursing Services Program, Texas Department of Health.

In addition, the Commission met with members of the Bar of El Paso, Texas, immigration advocates and representatives of the following human rights organizations who interact daily with immigrants, asylees and migrants: Las Americas Immigrant Center, Texas Rural Legal Aid, Inc., American Friends Service Committee Immigration Law Enforcement Monitoring Program, Diocesan Migrant and Refugee Services, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights under Law of Texas and Immigrant Refugee Rights Project of El Paso, Southwest Migrant Farm Worker and Native American Assistance Program (SWAP), Pro Action Healthcare Outreach Program, Asociacion de Trabajadores Fronterizos, La Mujer Obrera, and El Paso Coalition for the Homeless Opportunity Center.

The Commission visited the El Paso Processing Center and Detention Facility of the United States Immigration and Naturalization Service, the Southwest Key Juvenile Center, United States Border Patrol Sector Headquarters, Paso del Norte Border Patrol Processing Center, Ysleta Port of Entry, Bridge of the Americas Port of Entry, and El Paso del Norte Port of Entry.

Furthermore, the Commission received information on issues relevant to the purpose of its visit which included, the Immigration and Naturalization Service’s mandate, procedures for processing asylum seekers and migrants, Operation Hold the Line, the expedited removal procedure under the Immigration Act, conditions of detention, access to attorneys and legal representation, trafficking of migrants, alleged human rights abuses of migrants, as well as the educational, working, medical and housing conditions of migrants there. The Commission also received information on the impact of NAFTA on workers in the region.

The Commission intends to use the information it received for the preparation of a report on the human rights situation of migrant workers and their families in the hemisphere. This project was endorsed by the Presidential Summit of the Americas recently held in Santiago, Chile as well as by a resolution reiterated last month by the General Assembly of the OAS held in Guatemala. In furtherance of this study, the Commission plans to carry out a series of visits to different ports of entry and immigration detention centers in the United States as well as other countries in the region.

The Commission wishes once again, to thank the United States of America, its officials, attorneys, advocates, and non-governmental organizations for their cooperation and assistance during its visit.



El Paso, July 9, 1999