Mexican Senate Approves Law Stepping up Migrant Rights

4 Mar

While more than 20 U.S. state legislatures have considered Arizona-style laws designed to curb the flow of undocumented immigrants, the Mexican Senate voted unanimously on February 24 to decriminalize illegal immigration.

Just in time. Mexico is quickly becoming a nightmare for Central American migrants, with news in the past year concerning Central American migrants having turned outright horrifying. The killing of over 70 Central Americans last August is now an infamous example of the risk migrants take while traveling through Mexico to get to the United States. A survey released days before the Senate’s decision and published by Mexico’s Comisión Nacional de los Derechos Humanos (CNDH) found that at least 11,000 kidnappings of migrants occurred in Mexico from April to September 2010.

In addition to this move, a new immigration law ensuring the human rights of migrants traveling through Mexico is now in the works. Among the provisions awaiting approval is one that would allow migrants access to health care and legal advice, along with possible financial assistance. Migrants who become victims or witnesses to a crime could be granted temporary work authorization. Those who perpetrate crimes against migrants may face harsher legal consequences for their actions.

The bill, which has been sent to Mexico’s Chamber of Deputies for approval before executive signature, grants migrants the right to file legal complaints when they are victims of crimes, regardless of immigrations status. They also would be guaranteed access to education and emergency medical care, as well as the possibility of normalizing immigration status. “The message that the Senate of the Republic wants to send to the country, to the migrants, but also to the world, is that Mexico does not penalize, criminalize or persecute anyone,” said Senator Francisco Herrera of the Institutional Revolutionary Party. “That is unacceptable here or anywhere else.”

Though Mexico is known more for sending immigrants than receiving them, each year some 300,000 undocumented Central Americans cross the Mexican border—with most on their way to the United States. The Mexican Senate’s push to loosen restrictions on illegal immigration also serves as a response to the flurry of proposals in U.S. state legislatures targeting undocumented immigrants. CNN reported last month that lawmakers in 40 states are considering proposals to end the right to citizenship by birth in the United States, granted by the 14th Amendment to the Constitution. Last month, the president of the Arizona State Senate, Republican Russell Pearce, introduced his latest radical proposal, SB-1611, which would require parents to provide proof of their children’s’ immigration status when enrolling them in school. The record of the Migrants Law debate indicates that actions in Arizona weighed on the minds of Mexico’s senators. “We’ve been asking the Americans for many years to treat the Mexicans who cross the border with respect,” said Senator Arturo Nuñez Jiménez of the Party of the Democratic Revolution. “With this law, we’re going to give such treatment to the Central Americans who come to Mexico on their way to the United States.”



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