US Senate immigration plan flawed, Human Rights Watch says

US Senate immigration plan flawed, Human Rights Watch says

WASHINGTON DC, US. Human Rights Watch (HRW) has strongly condemned the Unites States Senate’ immigration plan, saying the proposal was flawed and could expand a harsh and wasteful criminalisation of border-crossing immigrants.

 “The Senate proposal would fund a major expansion of criminal prosecutions for crossing the country’s southern border. Even more illegal crossers may end up serving prison time, even though existing laws already allow deportation for illegal crossers,” HRW US programme director Alison Parker said.

“Prosecutions of migrant crossers are unnecessary and wasteful when deportation is already permitted,” Parker said. “The US government should not misdirect its energies and resources to prosecute and imprison people seeking to reunite with family, flee violence, or seek work.”

It is estimated that more than 20 million illegal immigrants live and work in the US, mostly from Latin America. The Obama administration has made legalising these immigrants one of its top priorities, despite fierce resistance emanating from its political rivals.

Many people from all over the world have always dreamt to live and work in the US and become part of the American Dream, thinking that it was a land of honey and milk. But analysts say they could end up hating it and living in the shadows when the harsh reality, which includes getting a working visa, hit them like a ton of bricks.

The US Senate is set to take an important step toward establishing landmark protections for ‘unauthorised immigrants’, HRW said, adding that the plan could grant eventual legal status to millions of people, and reduce their vulnerability to human rights abuses.

HRW hailed the proposal, calling it a watershed moment in the country’s immigration that could bring millions of people out of the shadows.

But at the same time, the New York-based rights organisation taunted the proposal, saying it denies people with felony convictions or three misdemeanors even the possibility of legal status.

“The proposal is unclear whether disqualification would allow for exceptions depending, for example, on whether the felony was non-violent, the conviction occurred long ago, or the immigrant has since demonstrated rehabilitation or maintains strong nuclear family relationships in the US,” Parker said.

A summary of the proposed Senate Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernisation Act was made public on April 16, 2013, outlining significant changes to the complex array of immigration laws in the United States.

The full Senate has started to consider the bill on 17 April 2013, HRW said.

“Senators should take the coming weeks to ensure this bill better protects everyone’s rights,” Parker said. “Reform of this magnitude needs to be comprehensive and cannot exclude whole groups of immigrants whose rights today are being violated.”

*Photo by Omar Torres/Agence France-Presse. A Mexican family illegally crosses the US border.

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