HIRC brings issue of executive orders to Inter-American Commission on Human Rights


HIRC Brings Issue of Executive Orders to Inter-American Commission on Human Rights

Requests emergency hearing to discuss Safe Third Country Agreement

Earlier this week, the Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinical Program (HIRC) took the issue of Donald Trump’s executive orders to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (Commission), calling for an emergency hearing to discuss the impact of the orders on the Safe Third Country Agreement between Canada and the United States.

Under the agreement, Canada refuses to hear claims by asylum seekers entering the country from the United States on the premise that the United States is a safe third country. But as HIRC made clear in its letter to the Commission on Wednesday, “the United States is not a safe country of asylum for persons fleeing persecution and violence.”

A recent HIRC report shows how provisions of the executive orders undermine human rights and other standards governing the treatment of asylum seekers. Of particular concern are provisions calling for an expanded system of mass incarceration; expansion of expedited removal proceedings without due process; a heightened credible fear standard; an increase in the number of agents with immigration functions; and aggressive prosecution of unauthorized entry.

“Under the threat of Trump’s orders, refugees are risking their lives in droves to cross into Canada, in the hope that they will find protection there,” said Sabrineh Ardalan, Assistant Director of HIRC. “As pressure mounts in Canada to suspend the Safe Third Country Agreement,  this issue deserves the attention of the Commission.”

HIRC’s letter, signed by dozens of immigration law professors and advocates in the United States and Canada, urges the Commission to recommend that Canada suspend the agreement and asks that the Commission carry out site visits at the U.S.-Canada border to gather information.

“The Safe Third Country Agreement is predicated on both countries being safe places for asylum seekers to seek refugee protection. That premise does not presently hold true for the United States,” said Audrey Macklin, Chair in Human Rights Law, at the University of Toronto. “If Canada deflects asylum-seekers back to United States, it breaches its own obligations towards refugees.”

HIRC has also requested permission to participate in a hearing convened by the Commission on the Impact of the Executive Orders on Human Rights, scheduled to take place on March 21st during the 161st Session.

“A public hearing would serve the critical function of raising awareness about this issue, both within the Commission, and the public sphere,” said Malene Alleyne, LLM ‘17, one of the HIRC students who worked on the report. “It would also provide an invaluable opportunity for civil society groups to come together with the Canadian government in a dialogue we hope will lead to change.”

For more information, contact:

Sabrineh Ardalan, Harvard Law School: sardalan@law.harvard.edu or 617-384-7504

Audrey Macklin, University of Toronto: audrey.macklin@utoronto.ca or 647-403-5170