Experts of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination Commend the United States of America on the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act, Ask About Absence of a National Human Rights Institute and Measures to Address Gun Violence
The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination today concluded its consideration of the combined 10th to 12th periodic reports of the United States of America, with Committee Experts commending the State on the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act and asking about the absence of a national human rights institute and measures to address gun violence.
Faith Dikeledi Pansy Tlakula, Committee Expert and Country Rapporteur, said that, in the context of the significant rise in hate crimes against ethnic minorities, the Committee welcomed the recent adoption of legislation such as the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act, while asking questions about the Act. Ms. Tlakula said that the Committee had repeatedly expressed concern at the lack of an institutionalised coordinating mechanism such as a national human rights institution. What measures had the State party adopted to create a permanent and effective coordinating mechanism at the federal level?
While noting the measures that had been taken to address gun violence, Ms. Tlakula stressed that the firearm homicide rate had increased, especially amongst black men and in impoverished communities. What measures were being taken to address the disparate impact of gun violence on individuals belonging to racial and ethnic minorities and indigenous peoples?
The delegation said that the United States was aware of the recommendations of the Committee regarding the establishment of a national human rights institute. The State party would take these recommendations under consideration to the extent that they could be enforced by President Biden.
The delegation also said that the State was ensuring accountability regarding the use of force from police officers. The Department of Homeland Security enforced strict standards of conduct for police officers. A Department-wide use of force policy, which stressed respect for human life, was released in 2018, and this policy was updated in 2021. Training was provided on de-escalation and training simulators on the use of force had also been established, as well as border fence training venues. The Office of Civil Rights and Liberties also investigated cases of excessive use of force and tracked these through an online dashboard, with over 600 such incidents logged so far this year.
In concluding remarks, Ms. Tlakula said that to lay the scourge of racism to rest, uncomfortable conversations and concrete measures and actions were necessary. Ms. Tlakula expressed hope that the State party would continue to hold consultations with civil society. Such consultations would lead to progress in implementing the recommendations of the Committee.
Michèle Taylor, Ambassador to the Human Rights Council and head of the delegation, thanked the Committee for the rich dialogue. The United States, she said, needed to do better regarding the elimination of racial discrimination, and was deeply committed to doing so using all levers at its disposal. The initiatives that had been discussed were a testimony to the United States’ commitment to achieving a more perfect union based on a bedrock of equality and justice. Ms. Taylor said that the State party saw and heard the people most affected, and would continue to stand with those people.
Desirée Cormier Smith, Special Representative for Racial Equity and Justice, United States Department of State, and co-leader of the delegation, said that the State party shared the Committee’s vision that sustained efforts were needed to eliminate racial discrimination. The delegation had shown that progress had been made, but there was much more left to do. The State party was committed to continuing consultations with ethnic and racial minorities to develop support policies. Ms. Smith expressed gratitude for the work that civil society representatives did every day to uplift their communities and break down institutional barriers, and sadness that ethnic and racial minority groups still needed to fight for the freedoms enjoyed by the white population.
The delegation of the United States of America consisted of representatives of the Department of State; Department of the Interior; National Security Council; Department of Labor; Environmental Protection Agency; Department of Education; Department of Health and Human Services; Department of Housing and Urban Development; Department of Homeland Security; Department of Justice; Equal Employment Opportunity Commission; WWC Global; Office of the Attorney General of the State of California; Office of the Mayor of Atlanta, Georgia; Cherokee Federal; and the Permanent Mission of the United States of America to the United Nations and Other International Organizations, Geneva.
The Committee will issue its concluding observations on the report of the United States of America after its one hundred and seventh session, which concludes on 30 August. Summaries of the public meetings of the Committee can be found here, while webcasts of the public meetings can be found here. The programme of work of the Committee’s one hundred and seventh session and other documents related to the session can be found here .
The Committee will next meet in public on Monday, 15 August at 3 p.m. to review the combined 10th to 12th report of Azerbaijan ( CERD/C/AZE/10-12 ).
The Committee has before it the combined 10th to 12th periodic report of the United States of America (CERD/C/USA/10-12).
Presentation of Report
MICHÈLE TAYLOR, Permanent Representative to the Human Rights Council, United States Department of State, and co-leader of the delegation , said that she had lived most of her adult life in Atlanta, Georgia, the cradle of the American civil rights movement. Atlanta was built on the violent, tragic history of slavery and racial discrimination, but it had also been shaped by the inspiring, hard-fought successes of a community of activists led by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and extended by the leadership of succeeding generations. There was work to be done in building a just and equal society in the United States. However, the blueprint of the civil rights movement together with the recommendations from civil society guided a way forward and encouraged hope.
Ms. Taylor said that when anyone's rights were threatened, it affected all people. Children ripped from their parents inspired generational trauma. Injustice anywhere was a threat to justice everywhere. Ms. Taylor said that she was deeply committed to fighting discrimination and violence against members of vulnerable groups wherever they occurred, and that commitment was a foundational pillar of the Biden-Harris administration.
DESIRÉE CORMIER SMITH, Special Representative for Racial Equity and Justice, United States Department of State, and co-leader of the delegation , said that it was her duty to ensure that United States foreign policy protected and advanced the human rights of people belonging to marginalized racial and ethnic groups, and to combat systemic racism, discrimination, and xenophobia around the world. The State party strived to promote respect for the rights of individuals who were oppressed due to their race or ethnicity, and to create a more inclusive world.
The United States was a multi-racial, multi-ethnic and multi-cultural democracy. To honour that diversity, the State party strived to ensure that every American was protected against discrimination based on race, colour, and national origin. However, the State continued to grapple with the gap between stated ideals and the lived realities for racial minorities. It was important to fully acknowledge the tragic and ugly parts of the State’s history, including the displacement of Native Americans and the enslavement of Africans, and their lingering legacy as contributing factors to current racial disparities and inequities.
On his first day in office, President Biden had signed a historic Executive Order on Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities, which mandated a whole-of-Government approach to identifying and remedying racial and other inequities in policies, programmes and assistance. In April, over 90 agencies across the Government released Equity Action Plans that highlighted concrete steps to advancing equity in their respective missions.
The State party’s commitment to eliminating racial disparities and discrimination was clear. There was much work to do to make equality for all a reality, but progress had been made since the beginning of the Biden-Harris Administration. What made America unique was its ability to acknowledge its imperfections and domestic challenges, including systemic racism, and work to overcome them.
ANDRE DICKENS, Mayor of Atlanta, Georgia, said that Atlanta was the cradle of the civil rights movement, and had thrived due in large part to nearly 50 years of black business and civic leadership. Atlanta faced challenges of affordability, of inclusion, and of racial, economic and health disparities. The Government was transparent on the challenges it faced and took a collaborative approach to identifying and implementing innovative solutions. The population of the Atlanta metro area was roughly 6 million; by 2040, it would be around 8.4 million. With urban growth came an increasing responsibility to improve the lives of residents to ensure access to infrastructure and social services, housing, education, healthcare and safety. The city was committed to finding multilateral solutions to global problems. Its goal was to build a strong coalition of city and state leaders to shape national and global initiatives. The city was committed to human rights and stood firmly against racial discrimination.
DAMON BROWN, Special Assistant Attorney-General, California Department of Justice , said that with nearly 40 million residents, California was the most populous state in the United States, and one of the most ethnically diverse. The State had welcomed over 100,000 refugees over the past two decades, but was not immune to hate crimes. Between 2020 and 2021, California experienced a 36 per cent increase in hate crimes, including racially-based crimes. Work needed to be done to eliminate racial discrimination and its dangerous effects. The Attorney-General had launched the Racial Justice Bureau to empower the state’s diverse communities and tackle racial and social justice issues. The civil rights enforcement section was working to end racial discrimination in housing and the department was working with the racial profiling advisory board to eliminate racial profiling in law enforcement. California was committed to promoting racial diversity and protecting the rights of people of all races.
STEVEN HILL, White House National Security Council, said that the National Security Council was working to advance racial justice. President Biden had put human rights at the centre of foreign policy. One way that the State was implementing the President’s vision was through its renewed engagement with the United Nations human rights system, including the treaty bodies. The United States was committed to effective domestic implementation of its obligations under the Convention. There was ongoing debate about what additional steps the State could take to implement international human rights commitments in the domestic context. The dialogue was one of many ways in which the Administration sought input from stakeholders. The State party appreciated the robust input from civil society during the consultation process leading up to the dialogue.
JONATHAN SMITH, Acting Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General in the Civil Rights Division of the United States Department of Justice, said that the Attorney General doubled the Department’s voting enforcement staff and had challenged restrictive voting laws, discriminatory redistricting plans, and other barriers across the country. Last year, the Department had launched a new initiative to combat redlining and lending discrimination and had created an Office of Environmental Justice to better protect communities that suffered due to pollution and climate change. The department had secured convictions against all four officers involved in the killing of George Floyd, and secured hate crimes convictions for the killing of Ahmaud Arbery. The department also awarded approximately $4 billion annually to organizations providing re-entry services, community violence interventions, services for victims, and law enforcement training. Mr. Smith said that the department was addressing unlawful conditions for those —disproportionately people of colour—incarcerated in jails and prisons. Recent federal legislation had reduced mandatory minimum penalties for certain drug offenses and helped incarcerated people prepare to return to the community. The federal prison population was at its lowest level since 2000 and racial sentencing disparities had fallen.
PETER MINA, Senior Official Performing the Duties of the Officer for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, United States Department of Homeland Security , said the Department had made efforts to fight racially and ethnically motivated domestic violent extremism, including through the new Centre for Prevention, Programs, and Partnerships. The Interagency Task Force on the Reunification of Families had facilitated the reunification of 400 children and parents who were previously separated at the United States-Mexico border. The department had facilitated the successful effort to terminate the Migrant Protection Protocols, or Remain in Mexico program, after the program had been reimplemented. The office had also been investigating complaints against United States Customs and Border Protection, relating to the treatment of Haitian migrants in Texas, in 2021. As a result of this oversight, institutional changes and disciplinary processes were now underway.
ANN MARIE BLEDSOE DOWNES, from the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska, and Principal Deputy Solicitor at the United States Department of the Interior, said the Department was proud that several political positions were held by Indigenous Peoples. “Indians” were described in the text of the U.S. Constitution, solidifying that political relationship. The United States recognized the special legal relationship and trust responsibility the nation had with Indian Tribes, Alaska Native Villages, and the Native Hawaiian Community, built on Indian Treaties and centuries of Supreme Court case law. From investigating the United State’s role in the federal Indian boarding school system, to advancing Indigenous co-management of federal lands, there was determination to make changes that would help the country heal. The department was committed to meaningful consultation and incorporating Indigenous knowledge in decision-making.
CHITRA KUMAR, Assistant Director of the Office of Environmental Justice at the United States Environmental Protection Agency , said the United States was refocusing its efforts to bring justice to communities experiencing the worst impacts of environmental pollution and public health crises. The Environmental Protective Agency was committed to protecting human health and the environment for all persons in the United States. This was being done by funding the capacity of underserved communities; investing in resilient, equitable infrastructure; and supporting efforts of states and tribes, among other initiatives.
JESSICA SWAFFORD MARCELLA, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Population Affairs in the Department of Health and Human Services , said the COVID-19 pandemic had highlighted long-standing racial disparities in health outcomes and access to health care. The department was committed to addressing inequities by changing policies, programs, and processes. Potential equity impacts were now being assessed before making budgets and policy changes, and the department was reconsidering how to build capacity and fund trusted organizational partners.
CATHERINE LHAMON, Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights at the United States Department of Education , said racial equity was fundamental to the agency’s mission. Every year thousands of cases on racial discrimination in schools were investigated and resolved. The agency redressed racial harassment, ensured schools supported English learners’ equal access to education, and combated discrimination in access to high-rigor coursework and in the application of school discipline. Funds were also provided for education, which in 2021 included more than $130 billion under the American Rescue Plan to mitigate the pandemic’s impact on underserved students, close achievement gaps, and meet students’ needs.
DEMETRIA MCCAIN, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity at the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development , said that ongoing legacies of residential segregation and discrimination remained present in society, as did systemic barriers to safe and affordable housing for people of colour. The wealth gap and homeownership gap between white and black families was greater today than in 1968 when the Fair Housing Act was adopted. A disproportionate number of people of colour were experiencing housing insecurity, and rental costs had increased tremendously and were out of reach for many people. The departments priority was to see that these gaps narrowed. This was being done by working with communities to end housing discrimination and provide relief to victims; eliminate racial bias in all stages of home-buying and renting; and lift barriers that restricted housing and neighbourhood choice, among other initiatives.
LENITA JACOBS-SIMMONS, Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Employment and Training Administration, United States Department of Labour , said that advancing equity was a priority for the Department as well as addressing racial inequities, exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. The Department recognized that improving working conditions and economic opportunities for people of colour was vital for combatting pervasive racial inequities in the country. This was being done by broadening the equity impacts of grant-making; understanding the equity data collected; and centring under-served communities in rulemaking processes, among other initiatives.
RAYMOND PEELER, Associate Legal Counsel, United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission , said the Commission enforced federal workplace anti-discrimination laws on bases including race, colour, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, disability, and age. These laws prohibited intentional discrimination, and intersectional discrimination affecting a combination of bases. These laws were enforced by investigating charges from the public, facilitating settlements or conciliation, litigating selected cases, and providing extensive guidance and outreach to stakeholders.
Questions by Committee Experts
FAITH DIKELEDI PANSY TLAKULA, Committee Expert and Country Rapporteur, welcomed the delegation, expressing gratitude to the State party for submitting its report, although it was submitted with more than 3 years of delay. Ms. Tlakula called on the delegation to inform the Committee about the challenges remaining in implementing the provisions of the Convention, as well as the progress made. She quoted the United States Government’s response to the High Commissioner for Human Rights on her report on systemic racism against people of African descent, which expressed that entrenched disparities in laws and public policies, and in public and private institutions, had often denied equal opportunity to individuals and communities, particularly for people of African descent. The tragic deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, the response said, served as a reminder of the pervasive nature of systemic racism in the United States and the urgent action needed to address this challenge. Ms. Tlakula expressed hope that these words would guide the dialogue, and would be an opportunity to inspire permanent dialogue in the next years of the State party with people of African descent.
Ms. Tlakula said that the Committee had repeatedly expressed concern that the United States’ definition of racial discrimination used in federal and state legislation and in court practice was not in line with article one, paragraph one of the Convention. What steps had the State party taken to review the definition of racial discrimination to ensure that it was aligned with article one, so that it prohibited racial discrimination in all its forms? What measures had the State party taken to give greater effect to the Convention at federal, state and local levels? What measures had the State party taken to adopt legislation that incorporated the Convention into its domestic law and to ensure that effective remedies were available for violations of the Convention?
The Committee also noted with concern that the Executive Order on Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities, made no reference to the obligations of the State party under the Convention. What measures had the State party taken to require federal agencies to incorporate compliance with the Convention in policies and procedures and provide training and technical assistance to enable all levels of governmental entities to understand and implement the Convention?
Contemporary forms of racial discrimination were perpetrated by private actors. What steps had the State party taken to narrow the scope of its reservation to article two of the Convention, and to broaden protection against discriminatory acts? What measures had the State party taken to strengthen the use of special measures to eliminate the persistent disparities in the enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms? Other than in education, in which other areas had special measures been adopted to address racial discrimination?
Had the State party adopted legislative measures aiming at prohibiting racial profiling by law enforcement officials? What other measures had the State party taken to end the practice of profiling racial or ethnic minorities and illegal surveillance by law enforcement officials? What was the current status of the End Racial and Religious Profiling Act, which was introduced in Senate on March 4 2021, and the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act?
Ms. Tlakula said that the Committee had noted that the new Guidance on the use of race, which had been revised in 2014, still allowed the Federal Bureau of Investigation to continue data gathering and mapping communities at airports and border regions based solely on their race, ethnicity or religion, regardless of their connection to criminal activity. What measures had the State party taken to repeal those exceptions? What measures had been adopted to end immigration enforcement programmes and policies which indirectly promoted racial profiling? What measures had the State party adopted to address inequalities in access to public legal aid, and to ensure effective access to legal representation for those belonging to racial and ethnic minorities?
In its previous Concluding Observations, the Committee reiterated its concern at the lack of institutionalised coordinating mechanism such as a national human rights institution. In its current report, the State Party stated that it believed that it had sufficient multiple and complimentary protection and mechanisms to guarantee respect for human rights. Did these mechanisms monitor the implementation of the Convention? What measures had the State party adopted to create a permanent and effective coordinating mechanism at the federal level, such as a national human rights institution established in accordance with the Paris Principles? What measures had the State party taken to ensure that the guarantees of the Convention applied also to the non-autonomous territories? A Committee Expert said that far-reaching reservations concerning substantive key provisions of the Convention were highly problematic. Did the State Party consider withdrawing or narrowing its reservation to article four of the Convention?
The Committee was concerned by reports of the rise of the dissemination of ideas based on racial superiority and white supremacy and of incidents of hate speech, particularly against people of African and Asian descent, members of the Muslim and the Jewish communities and other racial and ethno-religious minorities What measures was the State Party considering to address and combat racist hate speech, to those vulnerable to hate speech, and to declare illegal and prohibit organizations which promoted and incited racial discrimination? What measures had the State party taken to combat racist hate speech online? Had the State party considered enacting legislation concerning hate speech online? Could the State Party explain the lack of any information and statistics regarding hate speech?
Numerous reports to the Committee had highlighted the significant rise in hate crimes against ethnic minorities, in particular people of African and Asian descent and of Hispanic/Latino origin. Against this background, the Committee welcomed the recent adoption of legislation such as the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act. Could the delegation explain why only a fraction of cases reported as hate crimes were qualified as such by the police and the decline in federal prosecution of hate crimes? Did the State party employ a systematic and human rights oriented approach to hate crimes which involved the participation of the communities affected by these crimes?
What measures had the State Party taken to ensure that teaching on federal and state levels encompassed information on racial discrimination, including the historical dimension of slavery and the history and culture of indigenous peoples? How did the State Party ensure that teaching was aimed at promoting understanding and respect for diverse cultures?
What measures had the State Party taken to address and investigate allegations of excessive use of force by Customs and Border Patrol personnel and Immigration and Customs Enforcement, as well as violence against migrants and asylum seekers of African descent? What measures was the State Party taking to abolish the criminal prosecution of migrants for breaches of immigration laws, and to address the deportation of undocumented non-citizens, particularly those deported to areas where they were at risk? What was the progress of the reunification of migrant families, and the opportunities for these families to pursue permanent legal immigration status?
What concrete measures had the State party taken to guarantee access to fair and effective asylum procedures? What efforts were the authorities making to combat the collective expulsion of non-citizens, including asylum seekers? Following the Supreme Court decision, what steps was the State Party taking to end the implementation of the “Migrant Protection Protocols”? Did the State party collect data on immigration detention of asylum seekers and other migrants, disaggregated by race and ethnicity, including the average length of detention? What measures had the State party taken to strengthen its legislation to protect migrants from abusive working conditions; provide adequate remedies against unlawful conduct, including legal aid; and ensure access to social services?
What concrete measures had been taken to raise the minimum age for hazardous work in the agricultural sector for children to 18? What steps were being taken or planned by the State party for a statelessness determination system to enable the more than 200,000 stateless persons living in the United States? Dd the State party plan to ratify the 1954 Convention relating to the Status of Stateless persons or the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness? What steps were being taken to ensure the closure of the Guantanamo Bay facility, to end the administrative detention of non-citizens without charge or trial, and to guarantee detainees' right to a fair trial and equal access to the regular criminal justice system?
GUN KUT, Committee Expert and Follow-Up Rapporteur, said that a follow-up report was submitted by the State party one year after the submission of its previous report, and expressed gratitude for the State party’s cooperation with the follow-up procedure. The Committee had previously asked the State party to ensure compliance with the 1990 basic principles on the use of force. The State party had provided detailed information about this issue, but the Committee had concluded that the information provided was inadequate, and requested the State party provide detailed information in its next periodic report. The Committee would examine this information.
The next topic for follow-up dealt with immigration. Among other recommendations, it called on the State party to ratify International Labour Organizations conventions 29 and 138. The responses of the State party to the Committee’s recommendations were again deemed to be inadequate, and the Committee expressed concerns that the “Streamline” programme was still in practice.
The third topic for follow-up was the closure of the Guantanamo Bay detention facility. This recommendation had not been addressed, and Mr. Kut called on the State party to address the Committee’s recommendations.
VERENE ALBERTHA SHEPHERD, Committee Chairperson, said that artificial intelligence algorithms had been shown to discriminate based on race. What was the State party’s position on these algorithms?
In recent years, many states had introduced statutes related to the teaching of critical race theory and other approaches to the study of racial injustice. These statutes discouraged teachers from teaching these subjects due to fear of breaching them. What was the delegation’s position on these statutes, and what was the United States doing to advance understanding of disagreements regarding race theory?
A Committee Expert said that the Committee had repeatedly called on the State party to introduce legislation that specifically prohibited racially-based hate speech. In March 2020, at the height of the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, Asian-Americans were subjected to racial hatred, and the Committee had released a statement denouncing this. In New York, only 3 per cent of attacks against Asian persons were prosecuted. The Senate had approved legislation in May 2021 aimed at addressing racial discrimination against Asian Americans in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Would the State party consider lifting its reservation to article four of the Convention? What was the status of the Ku Klux Klan?
Another Committee Expert said that police had killed more people in the first seven months of this year than in any other year on record. Police continued to kill indigenous people, black people and Latin Americans were over 300 per cent more likely to be killed by police than white people. Almost half of killings by police went unrecorded. What measures were in place to stem this trend and prevent racial profiling?
Responses by the Delegation
The delegation said that some laws, including the United States Constitution, limited discrimination based on disparate impact, but several laws did provide disparate impact courses of action. The State party was committed to the use of disparate impact, and believed that such legislation did meet the State party’s obligations under the Convention. Many statutes did prohibit the conduct of private actors. Recently, a private institution had been sued for 20 million dollars, for discriminating based on race in the provision of housing. The Supreme Court had recently agreed to hear cases addressing the use of affirmative action in universities such as Harvard, and the United States, and would represent the position that affirmative action was a positive trend that should be encouraged in these cases. Billions of dollars in federal contracting had been earmarked for racial minorities in various special measures.
The Department of Education actively promoted special measures and affirmative action in education. It had also used disparate impact to positive effect, assessing school districts’ use of the disparate impact tool in enrolment and discipline areas and addressing violations of law to prevent discrimination. Disparate impact was a vital tool for enforcing civil rights laws in the United States.
Employers were instructed on how to screen conviction records, and progress had been made in increasing the employment rate of people with criminal records. Agencies were required to create complaint mechanisms related to employment. The Government met with employers to encourage them to implement affirmative action programmes.
The Department of Homeland Security had policies governing its use of race and gender. Key principles that prohibited profiling based on race were planned for introduction. The 287-G programme had been effective, but was not internationally recognised as a robust immigration programme. This programme had been reviewed in 2021 to strengthen basic training courses and ensure greater oversight.
The Department of Justice believed that racial profiling had no place in the justice system. Such practices were not effective, and decreased trust in law enforcement. The Federal Bureau of Investigation prohibited investigatory activity solely based on racial characteristics or religious beliefs. The Department also sponsored a number of programmes to prevent racial profiling, and investigated police departments accused of conducting racial profiling. It had worked with jurisdictions to address racial profiling and implemented training for officers in those jurisdictions.
The administration realised that it could not simply wait for the George Floyd Act to be passed. All police screenings needed to abide by law and respect privacy of persons involved. Training was being provided to police officers to prevent discrimination based on race, gender, religion and other characteristics. Atlanta denounced racial profiling by law enforcement. The police force was over 60 per cent black or Hispanic, and appropriately reflected the community. Atlanta extensively analysed law enforcement’s use of force and racial profiling. The Mayor’s Office for Violence Reduction had also been created to eliminate racial violence.
The State of California reviewed and analysed policies and practices to prevent racial and identity profiling. Police were required to report every vehicle stop conducted. This data was published and analysed to prevent profiling. Other organisations could take the data and make findings. A higher rate of black people were stopped, but were less likely to be charged than white people. Disparate impacts regarding access to justice disproportionately affected people of colour. The newly-established Office for Access to Justice was working to remedy the access to justice crisis. Over 28 federal agencies were working together to provide access to justice for minorities. The Office worked closely with other Government offices to provide legal counsel and resources in immigration proceedings.
The Department of Housing and Urban Development had created the eviction protection grant programme to support ethnic minorities that had been affected by evictions. As a result of this, there were now over 100 funding programmes related to evictions in place across the United States. The State party was aware of the recommendations of the Committee regarding the establishment of a national human rights institute. The State party would take these recommendations under consideration to the extent that they could be enforced by President Biden.
In Atlanta, the King Center, the Carter Center, and the Center for Civil and Human Rights were established. The latter was a museum that provided education programmes on human rights issues. Every student in Atlanta visited this centre, and all police officers undertook training at this centre. Meanwhile, California had several localised human rights committees. These committees listened to the community and considered their needs.
The Biden Administration had issued Executive Orders to address the impacts of climate change on ethnic minorities. Unprecedented funding was being provided to protect vulnerable communities from environmental impacts. The State party was ensuring that at least 40 per cent of funding flowed to disadvantaged communities. A taskforce was working to tackle racial discrimination in immigration procedures.
The Justice Department was founded to protect black Americans from the Ku Klux Klan. There had been a truly horrifying rise in acts of hate, with a 70 per cent increase in attacks against Asian Americans, and a rise in hate crimes against religious minorities. Hate that extended from white supremacists was a particular threat. The Attorney General had committed to robustly addressing acts of hate using all of its law enforcement tools. It was also addressing “hate incidents,” which were incidents of discrimination that did not amount to crimes. The Community Relations Service used mediation tools to bring individuals together and discourage hate. Language minority communities were often the targets of hate, so the Office was working on supporting those communities. Far too many law enforcement communities did not provide data on hate crimes. The Office had devoted funding to support increased hate crimes reporting. The process of reporting hate crimes had also been made easier. Online platforms provided a new location for hateful rhetoric. To address this, a number of federal tools had been developed. A taskforce to address online harassment had also been launched. This taskforce was developing tools to address online harassment.
California had formed a Racial Justice Bureau to address hate crimes and encourage law enforcement units to establish special hate crime units. Increased resources were provided to inform communities on their rights and remedies available regarding hate crimes.
Questions by Committee Experts
FAITH DIKELEDI PANSY TLAKULA, Committee Expert and Country Rapporteur, said that the Committee noted the measures that had been taken to address gun violence. However, the firearm homicide rate had increased, especially amongst black men and in impoverished communities. What measures were being taken to address the disparate impact of gun violence on individuals belonging to racial and ethnic minorities and indigenous peoples? What was the firearm homicide rate in recent years, disaggregated by race and ethnicity of the victims?
2021 was one of the deadliest years on record, with 1,145 people killed by law enforcement officers, with people of African descent almost three times more likely to be killed by police than white people. Police killings had not declined after the murders of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd. What measures had the State party taken to ensure effective investigations of police killings and of excessive use of force against persons belonging to ethnic minorities; to ensure that perpetrators were prosecuted; and that victims or their families were provided with adequate compensation? What steps had been taken towards the review of the qualified immunity defence for officers?
What measures were being taken to strengthen the right to vote of all Americans and to prevent disengagement practices? What measures had been taken to combat the spread of disinformation and voter intimidation, particularly using digital technologies and platforms? What measures were being taken to guarantee the right to freedom of peaceful assembly of individuals belonging to racial and ethnic minorities?
What measures had been implemented to prevent and investigate allegations of harassment of human rights defenders and other ethnic minorities during protests? What measures had been taken to combat the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on racial and ethnic minorities and non-citizens and to waive intellectual property protections for COVID-19 vaccines, as requested by the Committee in April 2022?
Despite measures adopted, racial disparities and segregation in the education sector was still a significant obstacle and the report did not provide information around combatting this. What measures had been taken to ensure effective access to affordable and adequate health care services to all individuals, particularly racial and ethnic minorities and immigrants? The Biden administration had recently proposed a regulation to implement the anti-discrimination provision in the Affordable Care Act; what measures would be put in place to ensure the effective enforcement of the regulation?
Black women were three times more likely to die from pregnancy related causes than their white counterparts, and black infants were more than twice as likely to die than white infants. What measures were being taken to address the persistence of high mortality rates amongst racial and ethnic minorities?
The Committee was concerned about the regression concerning abortion following the Supreme Court ruling issued on June 2022, which had been qualified as a “serious regression of an existing right that would jeopardize women’s health and lives”, in particular of those with low incomes and those belonging to racial and ethnic minorities. What measures were being taken to address the impact of intersectional discrimination and systemic racism on the sexual and reproductive health and rights of racial and ethnic minorities? What steps were being taken to address impact on women and girls, notably of racial and ethnic minorities, of the Supreme Court ruling which restricted women’s access to reproductive health and abortion services?
A Committee Expert expressed deep concerned about the vastly disproportionate overrepresentation of racial and ethnic minorities, including women of colour, in the criminal justice system. How did the State party intend to address these deeply entrenched disparities in a systematic manner? What measures had been taken to address the issue of racial discrimination in the context of the death penalty? The Committee welcomed the moratorium on federal executions which has been issued by the current administration in July 2021. What steps had the State Party taken towards abolition of the death penalty?
How did the State party address the risk of discrimination through the use of algorithms meant to assess the risk of a relapse into criminal behaviour? How did the State Party intend to address concerns of extensive solitary confinement and use of chemical agents such as pepper spray, which disproportionately affected minorities? Could the State party provide current statistics on the practice of sentencing juveniles to life imprisonment without parole, disaggregated by race and ethnicity?
A Committee Expert asked if the State party had taken measures to implement community-based and culturally sensitive health services? Another Committee Expert said that the information provided by the delegation was not sufficiently detailed. The Expert called for more statistics to demonstrate the current situation. What measures were in place to implement a national human rights institute in line with the Paris Principles?
The police seemed to be becoming increasingly violent, with over 1,000 killings in 2021. What had been done to investigate these killings? What training had been provided to train border officials? What was the amount of bail that immigrants were required to pay, and how was this determined? Another Committee Expert said that communities of colour had been disproportionately affected by natural disasters. Had support programmes implemented in response to these disasters been effective?
What efforts to give effect to bilateral treaties had been concluded between Tribal Nations and the State party? How would the State party address concerns raised by indigenous peoples regarding their ability to fully exercise cultural practices on indigenous territories? Did the State Party consider engaging in or intensifying ongoing dialogues with indigenous peoples, including indigenous peoples of insular territories under as well as “unrecognized” indigenous peoples?
Another Committee Expert asked about measures taken to address the racial homeownership gap, residential segregation as well as racial discrimination in access to housing based on race, colour, ethnicity, or national origin. What measures was the State party taking to prevent, investigate, and sanction discriminatory mortgage lending, steering, and redlining practices by private actors that had a disparate impact on racial and ethnic minorities? What measures had the State party implemented to reduce homelessness, and abolish laws and policies criminalizing homelessness in several states? How did the State Party plan to address the overrepresentation of children and families of African descent and Indigenous families in the foster care system?
According to data from the United States Department of Agriculture, in 2020, 22 per cent of Black households and 17 per cent of Hispanic households experienced food insecurity, compared to seven per cent of white Americans. What measures had been taken to address racial disparities in access to adequate food, and the disproportionate impact of food insecurity on racial and ethnic minorities and on indigenous peoples?
Responses by the Delegation
The delegation said that the COVID-19 pandemic had laid bare the disparities that existed in health and well-being across races. The Government had implemented over 50 actions to improve maternal health care. The key priorities were to increase coverage of health care services and increase grants that subsidised care for individuals with low income. The State intended to bolster the voices of communities regarding pregnancy health care. It was making sure that health care providers had appropriate resources. Another key focus point was strengthening economic and social supports before, during and after pregnancy. The State would make sure that people were aware of their entitlements regarding pregnancy leave and support.
The Dobbs decision did allow states to put in restrictive laws preventing abortion. Immediately after the decision, Executive Orders were released supporting access to reproductive services. The autonomy of women to access reproductive services was essential. The State was also focused on protecting emergency health care services. Emergency medical care was open to everyone, including non-citizens and undocumented individuals. The Department of Health had implemented additional funding for training for family planning services. The State was committed to reproductive health care access and non-directive health care options were encouraged. The State planned to do more to address the situation, especially to support individuals and reduce disparities. There had been a historic investment in American Indian health services. Health services were making sure that vaccines were available to communities, and funding was being provided to strengthen community health care.
The Office of Civil Rights was responsible for ensuring that Government agencies complied with non-discrimination laws. Racial disparities occurred at every decision-making point, and black children, native American children and Latin American children were more likely to be placed in foster care than white children. The State had increased funding for support services for minority children by 10 billion dollars.
In March 2021, a lone gunman executed eight people in Atlanta. Hate crimes against racial and ethnic minorities, especially Asians, had increased during the COVID-19 pandemic. The gunman had thus far admitted to four homicides. It was the city’s priority to denounce hate and address the challenges that all members of the community were facing. City government officials had met with community representatives and were working to prevent hate of any kind. The delegation said employers were required to prevent racial discrimination in the workplace. The United States had expressed reservation to article four of the Convention. However, the Government believed that banning hateful speech would lead to an increase in such speech.
The Biden-Harris administration was committed to addressing the deeply rooted inequities in the education system. The administration had implemented policies to increase and strengthen support for teachers of colour. Grant programmes were in place to support minority teachers and students. Over 770 million dollars in funding had been earmarked for examining inequities in the education system. The Department of Education also promoted pedagogical practices that encouraged inclusiveness and worked to address bias in schools.
The Department had invested over 130 billion dollars in assisting schools in recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic. These funds aimed to address inequities and recover lost instructional time. The administration had recently launched the “National Project for Student Success,” which aimed to increase teachers and instructors to help make up for lost tuition time. The Department also provided funding to support American Indian and Alaskan students’ education. Inter-agency collaboration was encouraged to support these students’ education. A new inter-agency effort had been launched last year to preserve, protect and promote the rights of native American students. The State placed importance on conducting tribal consultations.
There were cases where Jewish, immigrant and black students were discriminated against and schools did not appropriately respond, requiring the Department of Education to step in. The Department investigated cases of discrimination in schools and worked to protect students and teachers from discriminatory state laws. It was currently negotiating an important resolution regarding discipline in schools, and working to protect students from harm. 130 schools were tribally controlled, and there were 37 tribal universities, however the majority of native students did not attend these schools. A recent report had found that Indigenous students had been forced out of their communities and attended schools where they were subject to discrimination.
All students in California were required to take a course on ethnicity to receive a high school diploma. Students were taught about the holocaust, and an education council had been established to address racial hatred in schools. The city of Atlanta focused on early childhood education, to combat prejudice. A “Peace Week” was held to promote peace and understanding in schools. Atlanta was also trying to support access to childcare, investing 20 million dollars toward this.
The State was ensuring accountability regarding the use of force from police officers. The Department of Homeland Security enforced strict standards of conduct for police officers. A Department-wide use of force policy, which stressed respect for human life, was released in 2018, and this policy was updated in 2021. Training was provided on de-escalation and training simulators on the use of force had also been established, as well as border fence training venues. A board of senior officials reviewed use of force incidents by border officials and assessed issues involving training, equipment and policy. 66 use of force incidents had been reviewed, with investigations possibly resulting in fines and criminal actions. The Office of Civil Rights and Liberties also investigated cases of excessive use of force and tracked these through an online dashboard, with over 600 such incidents logged so far this year.
Since March 2020, the Title 42 law had been implemented, which had led to the expulsion of certain immigrants. However, exceptions were assessed on a case-by-case basis. The State had earmarked additional visas for Haitian immigrants. On August 8, the United States district court had lifted the injunction that required the State to implement the Migrant Protection Protocols.
The Department of Homeland Security received notification of all deaths related to use of force by police officers. After notification, the Department conducted investigations and pursued appropriate responses to each case. Non-governmental organizations had expressed concern about persons subjected to expulsion under Title 42. A reunification unit had been established in 2021, and this taskforce had helped to reunite over 400 children separated from their families at the Mexican border. The Department worked with the United Nations Refugee Agency to determine stateless persons. Although the United States had not ratified statelessness conventions due to the difficulty of amending national laws, it did work to support stateless persons and did not contribute to increasing stateless persons.
The United States had welcomed more than three million refugees over the past 30 years. Domestic law required certain non-citizens to be detained when attempting to cross the border. These people had the right to a determination hearing, and most were released on parole. A new asylum merits interview had been introduced to determine whether non-citizens were eligible for asylum. Another new policy had been introduced, which required a standard review for all deaths in custody, and whether detention officers were responsible for the death.
The United States held regular consultations with tribal nations and worked with communities to make them safer and more prosperous. The United States was working to address societal ills that affective Indian tribes and supported these tribes’ right to self-governance and self-determination. Federal agencies were required to consult with tribal groups, regarding policies that affected these groups. A committee had been established to advance the United States’ relationship with Indian tribes.
The delegation said that there was a record number of indigenous people serving in the Biden administration. Over 80 per cent of American Indian and Alaskan adults had experienced discrimination and the United States was working to address this situation. Executive Order 14053 directed federal agencies to address the missing and murdered indigenous Americans crisis. The Government had allocated 1.5 million dollars to locate family members of persons who had gone missing or been murdered. A new unit had also been established to coordinate investigations of unresolved cases on tribal lands, which had made progress in bridging the gaps in missing data for such cases. A dedicated commission was working to prevent discrimination against indigenous persons.
The United States was committed to advancing environmental justice and ensuring that disadvantaged communities were not left behind. Billions of dollars had been directed to projects improving environmental conditions and infrastructure for these communities. The federal Constitution gave states the power to determine voting eligibility. An Executive Order to support voting access for people with criminal convictions had been issued. The Department of Justice was committed to using various tools to support access to voting rights, despite the loss of section five of the voting rights act.
Questions by Committee Experts
A Committee Expert said that the State had argued that it had other ways of dealing with racial hatred, hence it had expressed reservation to article four of the Convention. What were these other means?
FAITH DIKELEDI PANSY TLAKULA, Committee Expert and Country Rapporteur, said that various questions had not been answered, and called for written responses to those questions.
FAITH DIKELEDI PANSY TLAKULA, Committee Expert and Country Rapporteur, said that she had grown up under the dehumanising and cruel apartheid regime, which degraded South Africa as a nation. Nelson Mandela said that “to protect human dignity, we needed to lay the scourge of racism to rest.” To do this, uncomfortable conversations and concrete measures and actions were necessary. The Committee appreciated the open and constructive dialogue that was held. Ms. Tlakula expressed hope that the State party would continue to hold consultations with civil society. Such consultations would lead to progress in implementing the recommendations of the Committee. Ms. Tlakula expressed thanks to the country taskforce and members of the Secretariat for the dialogue.
MICHÈLE TAYLOR, Ambassador to the Human Rights Council and head of the delegation, thanked the Committee for the rich dialogue. The United States needed to do better regarding the elimination of racial discrimination, and was deeply committed to doing so using all levers at its disposal. The delegation had presented many of the concrete ways in which the State was meeting its obligations under the Convention. Americans stood up against hate and discrimination whenever and wherever it occurred. However, the United States’ history was coloured by systemic racism. The initiatives that had been discussed were a testimony to the United States’ commitment to achieving a more perfect union based on a bedrock of equality and justice. Ms. Taylor said that the State party saw and heard the people most affected, and would continue to stand with those people.
DESIRÉE CORMIER SMITH, Special Representative for Racial Equity and Justice, United States Department of State, and co-leader of the delegation , thanked the Committee for the dialogue. The State party shared the Committee’s vision that sustained efforts were needed to eliminate racial discrimination. The delegation had shown that progress had been made, but there was much more left to do. The State party committed to continuing consultations with ethnic and racial minorities to develop support policies. Ms. Smith expressed gratitude for the work that civil society representatives did every day to uplift their communities and break down institutional barriers, and sadness that these groups still needed to fight for the freedoms enjoyed by the white population. Ms. Smith said that she was reminded of the urgency of the State’s work every day. The State would not let society or future generations down by failing to meet its commitments.
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