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Gabriela Ocampo Ucha Documents Conditions and Human Rights Violations in Immigration Detention Centers

Gabriela Ocampo in DC
Gabriela (right) in Washington, D.C. for the December 5 , 2018 hearing with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.

January 17, 2019

It is well recognized now that the United States government is deliberately implementing inhumane and discriminatory immigration policies and practices. These policies are arbitrary and unlawful. Moreover, prominent immigrants’ defenders from throughout the country, have been targeted by the Trump Administration for their human rights work in defense of migrants.

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) has a mandate to monitor human rights situations in the American hemisphere. Therefore, Prof. Alejandra Gonza, director of the International Human Rights Clinic, students Catalina Saldivia Lagos, Dori Krupanics and myself, Maru Mora Villalpando, an undocumented immigrants’ rights defender and co-founder of the Northwest Detention Center Resistance, and Angelina Snodgrass Godoy, Director of the UW Center for Human Rights requested the a public hearing with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) to share information about the impact of the United States practice of targeting  immigrants’ rights defenders in freedom of speech and access to information.

On November 5, 2018, we were informed that the IACHR decided to convene the hearing during their 170th ordinary period of sessions, on 5 December 2018 in Washington, D.C.

The 2018 Osheroff-Clark Fellowship funded the preparation of the hearing and the travel costs to Washington D.C. for one supervisor and three students including myself.

In preparation of the hearing, during August 2018, I made several visits to the Northwest Detention Center to interview detainees and document human rights violations. I also conducted research on several human rights defender’s cases to determine the effects that targeting immigrant’s rights defenders has had on their selves and on the society.

Prior to the hearing, my team and I interviewed activists that are currently under deportation proceedings due to their activities on the defense of immigrant rights, prepared their statements and helped them prepare for the hearing. We also prepared the media outreach of the case.

During the hearing, prominent immigrant rights defenders from throughout the country, targeted by the Trump Administration for their human rights work, testified before the Commission. Their testimonies painted a picture of retaliation, intimidation, surveillance, secrecy and impunity that the US government uses against immigrants organizing and defending their communities from criminalization and deportation in mass numbers.

Abe Osheroff and Gunnel Clark’s believed that accountability begins at home and I am grateful that our work honored their principles. Due to the support granted by the Fund, we were able to take a step forward on the defense of human rights in the United States by activating international human rights mechanisms such as the IACHR to avoid human rights violations and discriminatory policies in the country.

A video of the hearing with the IACHR is available at: