Increased immigration enforcement along certain stretches of the US-Mexico border continued to push irregular migrants to use particularly dangerous routes through the US desert, resulting in hundreds of deaths. Increased collaboration between local law enforcement and immigration authorities put communities living along the US-Mexico border at risk of racial profiling by state and local law enforcement officials. Irregular migrants who were victims of crime, such as human trafficking and domestic violence, faced a range of barriers to justice.
Right to health
In June, the US Supreme Court upheld The Affordable Health Care Act, passed in 2010, which would expand health care coverage by 2014 to more than 30 million people in the USA who lack medical insurance. While a number of the law's provisions addressed barriers to obtaining quality maternal health care, such as preventing insurance companies from charging women more for health coverage, gaps and obstacles remained.
The Maternal Health Accountability Act remained before Congress at the end of the year.
Legislation outlawing the shackling of women prisoners at all stages of pregnancy was passed in California in October. This was the first such law in the USA.
In June, legislation came into effect in Virginia requiring women to undergo an ultrasound before having an abortion.
Congress failed to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act, which includes provisions to address the high levels of violence against Indigenous women and to provide protection and services for survivors of domestic violence.
Reauthorization of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, which would protect the thousands of individuals trafficked into the USA every year, remained stalled in Congress at the end of 2012.
Forty-three prisoners – all of them men – were executed in the USA during the year, all by lethal injection. Fifteen of the executions were carried out in Texas. By the end of 2012, Texas accounted for 492 of the 1,320 executions in the USA since 1976, when the US Supreme Court approved new capital laws.
In April, Connecticut became the 17th abolitionist state in the USA.
In November, the California electorate, by a vote of about 53% to 47%, rejected “Proposition 34”, an initiative that would have abolished the state's death penalty and commuted over 700 death sentences to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.
Amnesty International visits/reports
- Amnesty International delegates observed military commission proceedings at Guantánamo during the year.
- USA: “Congress has made no such decision”: Three branches of government, zero remedy for counter-terrorism abuses (AMR 51/008/2012)
- In hostile terrain: Human rights violations in immigration enforcement in the US southwest (AMR 51/018/2012)
- USA: Cruel isolation – Amnesty International's concerns about conditions in Arizona maximum security prisons (AMR 51/023/2012)
- USA: Another brick from the wall (AMR 51/028/2012)
- USA: Wrong court, wrong place, wrong punishment (AMR 51/032/2012)
- USA: Human rights betrayed – 20 years after US ratification of ICCPR, human rights principles sidelined by “global war” theory (AMR 51/041/2012)
- USA: “Targeted killing” policies violate the right to life (AMR 51/047/2012)
- USA: Deadly formula – An international perspective on the 40th anniversary of Furman v. Georgia (AMR 51/050/2012)
- USA: The edge of endurance – Prison conditions in California's Security Housing Units (AMR 51/060/2012)
- USA: One-way accountability – Guantánamo detainee pleads guilty; details of government crimes against him remain classified top secret (AMR 51/063/2012)
- USA: Texas – Still, doing its worst; 250th execution under current Governor imminent (AMR 51/092/2012)
- USA: Truth, justice and the American way? Details of crimes under international law still classified Top Secret (AMR 51/099/2012)