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U.N. Expert Will Look Into Rights, Conditions of U.S. Migrants

Jorge Bustamante, an independent expert from the United Nations, begins a three-week mission today to examine the rights of migrants and immigrants in this country. His official title is the Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Migrants. According to the April 27 press release from his office, he comes at the invitation of the U.S. government and will try to see firsthand what the conditions are for migrants and immigrants by visiting border areas near Nogales, Ariz., and San Diego, Calif., as well as several cities that are popular destinations for immigrants.

I'm curious about how much Mr. Bustamante will examine the educational opportunities for immigrants in this country. Some previous country reports by the Special Rapporteur tell about conditions affecting children, but don't say much about education. A 2002 report on Mexico, for example, tells about how children who try to cross that country to get to the United States and reunify with family members can become victims of the sex trade or drug trafficking.

Mr. Bustamante will be visiting the Florence Service Processing Center in Florence, Ariz.; the T. Don Hutto Detention Center in Taylor, Texas; and the Monmouth County Jail in Freehold, New Jersey. All three are detention centers for immigrants. According to the American Civil Liberties Union, children have been housed before at the Hutto center, but I'm not sure what's been the case with the other two. In November, I wrote about the schooling for detainees at the Boystown shelter in Miami. Unaccompanied minors--children without their parents who are picked up by immigrant authorities--are entitled to a full day of school while in detention. I found it amazing and sad that children as young as 7 sometimes ended up at that shelter without their parents, after trying to cross the U.S.-Mexico border.

The ACLU, one of the groups scheduled to meet with Mr. Bustamante, filed several suits against the U.S. Department of Homeland Security in March on behalf of 10 children detained at the Hutto facility. One of the ACLU's complaints was that the children weren't receiving adequate educational services while in detention. The children have since been released, according to information posted by the ACLU. That group says this visit is the first ever by the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Human Rights of Migrants to review conditions of migrants and immigrants in the United States.


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