U.N. experts join criticism of Arizona immigration law

Stephanie Nebehay

Reuters

May 11, 2010

(Reuters) - United Nations human rights experts added their voices to criticism of a new immigration law in Arizona, saying it may lead to police targeting people on the basis of ethnic origin, a violation of international law.

In a joint statement, five independent U.N. experts expressed concern that Hispanics could be subject to discriminatory treatment in the border state.

"The law may lead to detaining and subjecting to interrogation persons primarily on the basis of their perceived ethnic characteristics," they said.

"In Arizona, persons who appear to be of Mexican, Latin American or indigenous origin are especially at risk of being targeted under the law."

The U.N. experts decried a "disturbing pattern of legislative activity hostile to ethnic minorities and immigrants" in Arizona, which passed the United States' toughest immigration law last month.

The Arizona law requires police to determine if people are in the country illegally, previously a function carried out by U.S. federal immigration police and some local forces.

Critics of the law argue it is unconstitutional and a mandate for racial profiling, and fear it will destroy trust between Hispanic communities and law enforcement in Arizona.

Supporters say the law is needed to curb crime in the state, home to 460,000 illegal immigrants and a major corridor for drug and migrant smugglers from Mexico.

The U.N. experts voiced concern at the "vague standards and sweeping language" of Arizona's law, saying it raised "serious doubts about the law's compatibility with relevant international human rights treaties to which the United States is a party."

"States are required to respect and ensure the human rights of all persons subject to their jurisdiction, without discrimination," they said.

They urged authorities in Arizona and the federal government to "take all measures necessary to ensure that the immigration law is in line with international human rights standards."

They cited the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD), a 1966 treaty ratified by the United States under the Clinton administration.

President Barack Obama said last week he wanted to begin work on immigration reform this year and that U.S. officials would monitor the Arizona law for civil rights implications.

The U.N. experts report to the U.N. Human Rights Council, a Geneva forum whose 47 members include the United States. Their mandates cover human rights of migrants, indigenous people, minorities, contemporary forms of racism and cultural rights.

(Editing by Andrew Roche)

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