The Inter-American Human Rights System


The U.S. is a member of the Organization of American States (OAS), the world’s oldest regional organization of countries. The OAS is the primary international forum for governments to deal with political, judicial and social affairs in North, Central and South America. As a member of the OAS, the United States is bound by the regional (Inter-American) human rights system and falls under the jurisdiction of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR or the Commission). The IACHR is tasked, in part, with observing the general human rights situation in member countries. The Commission monitors compliance with the rights provided under the American Declaration on the Rights and Duties of Man (American Declaration) and other international human rights laws. It does so by granting hearings, conducting site visits to countries, issuing observations and holding meetings with advocates and government officials.

On the issue of racial profiling—particularly in the context of immigration enforcement —the Commission and its human rights experts have found the U.S. to be in violation of human rights obligations under the American Declaration.

In March 2011, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) released a report entitled Report on Immigration in the United States: Detention and Due Process which addresses U.S. immigration enforcement and detention policies and practices.  Some of the concerns expressed by the IACHR in the report include: the increasing use of immigration detention, the impact of detention on due process, and the rapid increase of local and state law enforcement partnerships with the federal government to enforce immigration laws.

In addition to the release of the report, the IACHR also held a hearing on March 28, 2011 to look at human rights violations in the U.S. government’s immigration enforcement and detention systems.  Human rights groups including the National Immigration Forum, the Rights Working Group, the Transnational Legal Clinic at the University of Pennsylvania Law School, the Immigration Clinic at the University of Texas School of Law, and the Women’s Refugee Commission presented testimony about human rights violations. Read their Press Statement.


Learn more about the Inter-American System and how to use it to address human rights violations in the U.S. by reading our issue briefs:

Issue Brief: Racial Profiling and International Human Rights Mechanisms

Issue Brief: The Inter-American Human Rights System