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Immigration Reform Must not Turn Immigrants into Criminals

Immigration reform will reunite families and would prevent undocumented immigrants from becoming criminals. According to a study released by Human Rights Watch, 85,000 immigrants were prosecuted for crossing the border illegally and for re-entering the country illegally, in 2013. One of the main reasons for illegal entry is to reunite with family members and more number of immigrants enter into the country illegally seeking work or to save their lives. Illegal entry, according to the US immigration laws is a punishable misdemeanor and people who cross the border illegally will be jailed. The study states that people who violate the country’s immigration laws must be given criminal charges only if they are convicted of serious crimes.

Many undocumented immigrants have their family members in the United States and they cross the border illegally to reunite with such family members. They choose to illegally immigrate to America as the legal immigration process takes years to complete and until then they must be separated from their family members. The International human rights law wants the country to prosecute undocumented immigrants with civil charges and not criminal charges. Nevertheless, people who illegally cross the borders are being treated as criminals, though they do not pose a national security threat to the country. Hence, immigration activists want a comprehensive immigration reform bill that would not criminalize family reunification.

The members of the Senate have already come up an immigration reform bill and that bill is now headed to the Senate floor. The Gang of Eight, in the House, has not yet reached a deal on its immigration reform bill. Members of the House want to change the country’s immigration system through a piecemeal approach and they focus on border security. They do not want to grant the undocumented immigrants amnesty. They are also against the provision of the Senate bill that would legalize undocumented immigrants. Nevertheless, the Democrats may not support a bill that would eliminate the naturalization process. Family reunification would become more difficult if the immigration reform bill does not include a pathway to US citizenship. Immigrants would then be required to wait for years to reunite with their loved ones.

The Senate bill would not encourage unauthorized immigration and the bill includes harsh penalties for people who make an attempt to illegally enter into America. The members of the House stated that they have reached a deal and that their bill would also include strict penalties for people who violate the country’s immigration laws. US immigration laws, do not protect the right to family unity and the immigration system of America is splitting families. Likewise, through deportation, family members are being imprisoned and are unable to reunite with their family members in America. Hence, comprehensive immigration reform is mandatory and immigration reform must reunite families. Human Rights Watch, supports the Senate immigration reform bill and that Gang of Eight’s immigration reform bill would increase immigration prosecutions. The bill would raise the penalties for illegal entry. Nevertheless, the bill would allow some immigrants who have immediate relatives in America and who have already been deported to apply for legal status. This provision of the bill would reunite separated families.

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