By Aida V. Nieto, Bill Archer Fellow for Amnesty International USA
On November 5th, the United States appeared before the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva to review its human rights record. As a follow up, a Town Hall was held for activists and nongovernmental groups to ask questions and offer their criticism and recommendations regarding the U.S.’s human rights record. During this meeting a topic that continued to come up throughout the ninety-minute discussion was the lack of human rights protection in programs designed to enforce federal immigration law.
Programs such as the controversial 287 (g) agreement and Secure Communities, a measure recently making headlines were widely criticized as they have proven to provide a venue for racial profiling. After the public exposure of the lack of human rights protections for immigrants and people of color in the United States, I hope that people and the government realized that immigration is a human rights issue, not a political issue.
While it is impossible to be fully certain of the priorities of the new leadership elected to Congress during the mind-term elections, there is a window of opportunity to respect the human rights of immigrants in the current congressional session. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi publicly expressed their commitment to bring up the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act for a vote during the lame-duck session.
The DREAM Act would provide conditional legal status to thousand of undocumented students that finish high school, attend college, and meet other specific requirement. These young undocumented immigrants were brought to this country by their parent without proper documentation. They grew up in the United States and attended state schools, but once graduated from high school they face great obstacles to continue their education as they lack legal status. Hard working undocumented students have been waiting for too long to be fully participating citizens of this country. Their dreams and aspirations are in the hands of Congress and it is time to do the right thing, and take a step forward to humane treatment of immigrants in the United States by passing the DREAM Act.
Education is a right worthy of protection. It is also an indispensable means of realizing other human rights. All children, without discrimination of any kind, including on the basis of their status or the status of their parents, have a right to education. For the last decade, Congress has attempted to pass The DREAM Act, but politics have halted this effort.
It is our duty to urge Congress to set party lines aside this lame-duck session and realize that inaction allows for the inhumane treatment of thousand of immigrant students in this country to continue. Politics must no longer be permitted to prevent the United States from fulfilling its human rights obligations. It is time to change the rhetoric from “illegal aliens crawling across the border that come here to take our jobs and commit crimes” to “individuals looking for a better life.” Programs like the 287 (g) agreement and Secure Communities are no substitute for a well-constructed immigration reform. Democrat or Republican, blue or red, it is time we bring change. Think purple and come together to respect the human rights of all and pass the DREAM Act!