“Dreamers” Jovan Rodrigo, 27, and Gloria Mendoza, 26, take part in a protest near Trump Tower on September 5, 2017 in New York City, United States. (John Moore/Getty Images)

Amnesty International USA urges Congress to pass a clean DREAM Act, without trading away the human rights of Native Americans and people needing humanitarian protection

By Joanne Lin, Senior Managing Director, Advocacy and Government Relations

Amnesty International USA (“AIUSA”) supports negotiations underway by the President and Democratic Congressional leaders to pass legislation to protect Dreamers from deportation. AIUSA supports immigration relief for the broadest population of undocumented people who entered the U.S. as children — many of whom were shielded from deportation by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals initiative until its repeal by President Trump in early September 2017. AIUSA is urging Congress to pass a clean and robust DREAM Act that would confer permanent residency and a pathway to U.S. citizenship — essential requirements to protect the human rights of all Dreamers.

A clean DREAM Act, however, must not contain a border wall or any additional “border security” measures that would endanger Central American children and families seeking humanitarian protection in the U.S. AIUSA has serious concerns about recent statements by Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Representative Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) indicating their willingness “to work out a package of border security, excluding the wall, that’s acceptable to both sides.”

AIUSA vigorously opposed the House’s decision in July 2017 to spend $1.6 billion to build President Trump’s border wall. Our board of directors made their opposition to the border wall known loud and clear in a letter sent to Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) in September 2017.

A border wall will have a devastating impact on the human rights of Native Americans. Any wall will cut right through tribal lands, directly impacting the property and livelihood of several Native American Nations. Congress has not obtained the consent of the affected Nations, which is a requirement under the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The National Congress of American Indians and the Legislative Council of the Tohono O’odham, the second-largest U.S. tribe by land holdings, have both passed resolutions opposing the construction of a border wall.

A border wall and any additional “border security” measures will also endanger survivors of torture and violence who need humanitarian protection, including children and women fleeing sexual exploitation, domestic violence, and forced gang recruitment in the Northern Triangle region of Central America (El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras). In our 2017 Facing Walls report Amnesty International documented 113 cases of Central Americans fleeing torture and violence. Eighty-six percent said that the reasons they fled were because of major threats to their life, and 27 percent mentioned the murder of a close family member or close contact in recent years.

Under U.S. and international law, the U.S. government must provide a fair and accessible asylum process, in order to ensure that people are not returned to situations where they would be persecuted, tortured, or killed. These protections must be upheld and cannot be sacrificed, compromised, or negotiated away. AIUSA opposes any walls or border enforcement measures that would detain, criminalize, or endanger people seeking humanitarian protection in the U.S.

As Democratic congressional leaders negotiate a Dream Act with the President, they must not cave to demands for new or increased “border security.” The number of Homeland Security (“DHS”) agents assigned to the U.S.-Mexico border has nearly doubled since 2004. A September 2017 report by the DHS Office of Immigration Statistics found that U.S.-Mexico border security is tougher than ever before and DHS agents are catching or stopping the majority of those who attempt to sneak across the border. DHS estimates that up to 85 percent of attempted illegal border crossings was unsuccessful, and as high as 75 percent of border crossers gave up after their first attempt ended in arrest. The findings from this recent DHS report challenge the President’s depictions of the southern border as a wild region where law enforcement is ineffective. The southwest border is more secure today than ever before.

AIUSA urges the Democratic congressional leaders to swiftly negotiate with the President and congressional Republicans a clean and robust DREAM Act. However, a clean DREAM Act requires the following:

  1. Permanent residency and a pathway to U.S. citizenship for all Dreamers;
  2. NO border wall; and
  3. NO purported “border security” measures that would endanger people seeking humanitarian protection in the U.S. and would violate the human rights of residents living in U.S. border communities.

AIUSA stands ready to work with Congress and the President to advance and pass legislation that protects the Dreamers without sacrificing the livelihood of Native Americans and the lives of Central American children and families.

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