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America's promise of civil rights applies to immigrants too, representatives of the ACLU/SC told a United Nations expert making a special visit in Los Angeles. Attorneys from the ACLU/SC met with the U.N.'s Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Migrants, Jorge Bustamante, at the start of his three-week fact-finding mission to the U.S.

Staff attorney Ranjana Natarajan raised concerns about the treatment of immigrants in federal detention centers, where 230,000 people were held last year. "The number of immigrants in federal detention has increased dramatically, and we have received disturbing reports about the government's failure to respect their civil rights," she said.

The ACLU/SC has won the release of more than a dozen people held in violation of federal rules as they sought legal U.S. residency.

Staff Attorney Belinda Escobasa Helzer described what happens when local law enforcement becomes involved in federal immigration law.

"Immigrants are more vulnerable to criminals than the population at large, and when local police become immigration cops, it makes it less likely that immigrants will come forward to report crimes," she said.

The Special Rapporteur's visit began April 30 and ends May 18 in Washington, D.C. Bustamante will issue a report to the U.N. Human Rights Council about rising anti-immigrant sentiment in the U.S. The ACLU/SC believes immigrants living in the U.S. deserve civil rights and should not face discrimination or harassment based on their status.