Mexican Lawmakers Decriminalize Migrants

Mark Stevenson, AP, April 30, 2008

Migrant rights activists applauded a vote by Mexico’s Congress to remove long-standing criminal penalties for undocumented migrants found in the country.

The measure passed unanimously in the lower house on Tuesday, a day after Senate approval. President Felipe Calderon’s office declined to say whether he would sign the popular measure into law.

Mexican lawmakers saw the harsh penalties as an anachronism, and some noted Mexico also owes migrants better treatment.

Immigrants here, mostly Central Americans trying to reach the U.S., are often robbed, mistreated and subject to extortion by bandits and even police.

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Current law lays out punishments of 1 1/2 to 6 years, while the new measure makes undocumented immigration a minor offense punishable by fines equivalent to about US$475 (euro300) to US$2,400 (euro1,535).

Some Mexican officials acknowledged that the current harsh penalties weakened Mexico’s position in arguing for better treatment of its own migrants in the United States.

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