A report compiled by experts from the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention criticized the Trump administration for ‘arbitrarily’ jailing would-be immigrants, including asylum-seekers.
The panel handed over its 23-page finding to the U.N. Human Rights Council on Monday, saying the widespread detention of immigrants has ‘grown exponentially.’
The report claims that holding migrants and prospective refugees in custody is often “punitive, unreasonably long, unnecessary and costly.” The council recommended only using arrest and lengthy periods of confinement as a last resort.
Each year, some 352,850 people are detained across the United States for immigration offenses. Detained until their trials can be held, the U.N. document estimates that $2 billion is lost each year paying for the costs of incarceration.
“The Working Group is of the view that all administrative detention, in particular of immigrants in an irregular situation, should be in accordance with international human rights law; and that such detention is to be a measure of last resort, necessary and proportionate and be not punitive in nature, and the alternatives to detention are to be sought whenever possible,” the report said.
When asked to comment on the panel’s findings, a White House spokeswoman effectively waved reporters away.
“That’s a question for the U.N.,” she said.
Reuters claims the Department of Homeland Security did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
During their investigation, the Working Group met and interviewed 280 migrants detained in nine different jails and prisons, all located in Texas, California, and Illinois. Not every facility provided detainees with adequate access to legal counsel.
The U.N. experts found that immigrants and asylum-seekers were being held in conditions better suited for convicted criminals – despite the right of refugees to seek asylum under international law.
Reuters notes the panel was concerned with the length of detention, with some migrants being held for an “unreasonable” amount of time.
Immigration proceedings can take between six months and a year to complete, leaving asylum-seekers incarcerated in the meantime.
While the Working Group was invited to the United States by former President Barack Obama last October, it voiced concern over the policies and proposals spearheaded by the current administration.
They said an executive order signed by Donald Trump in January could “lay the groundwork for expanding the existing detention system by increasing the number of individuals subject to immigration detention.”
“Under the order, apprehended individuals may be detained ‘on suspicion’ of violating federal or state law, which includes unauthorized entry,” they said.
The panel also blasted information received in March, which indicates the Department of Homeland Security may begin separating parents and children caught crossing the U.S.-Mexico border illegally, “in an attempt to deter immigration.”
“This is particularly serious given the increasing trend of unaccompanied children migrating to escape violence and reunite with family members.”