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UN experts make urgent call for US to regularize, protect rights of young migrants as DACA deadline nears

GENEVA (20 February 2018) - UN human rights experts have called on the United States to urgently address the situation of hundreds of thousands of migrants who arrived in the country as children and now face possible expulsion.

Their call comes ahead of the 5 March deadline for the expiration of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) programme, which grants work permits and renewable two-year deferments from deportation to qualifying migrants who arrived as children under 16, are pursuing or have completed a high school education or military service, and have not committed a serious crime.

“We are increasingly concerned about the impact that ending the DACA programme could have on the young people who benefit from it,” said the experts in a joint statement.

“If a solution is not reached by the beginning of March, DACA beneficiaries will be stripped of their legal status and their protection from deportation without procedural safeguards.

“The US needs to adopt measures to address this situation as a matter of urgency. These migrants risk losing protection of their rights and being expelled from the country where many of them have lived and developed their lives for decades. The majority of these migrants are young women. They are at risk of being expelled to countries where there are high levels of violence, lawlessness and crime and where women in particular face very specific and dire risks.

“An abrupt end to the DACA programme will disrupt the lives of these migrants and cause profound grief and irreparable harm by tearing their families apart and making them vulnerable to exploitation and abuse if deported to countries where they barely have any ties.

“Ending the programme without a feasible alternative would also send a wrong signal to the population, as it would reinforce harmful racial stereotypes and stigmatize hard-working, law-abiding young migrants who are an asset to the country which they consider home,” they added.

The experts said the US should act now to ensure the human rights of the estimated 800,000 people who have benefited from the programme, rather than imperil them.

DACA beneficiaries are often referred to as Dreamers - more than three quarters of them arrived from Mexico while the rest are mainly from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras.

“The expiry of DACA offers a unique opportunity for regularization of many migrants who have strong economic, social, cultural and family links in the United States, and whose contribution to society is unquestionable,” they said.

“The current debate in the US Congress should be seen as an opportunity to provide legal paths for migrants to be regularized and their human rights protected.

“The absence of legal avenues to protection and other durable solutions would leave this large group of migrants in limbo, making them even more vulnerable to xenophobia and discrimination, and would significantly jeopardize many of their human rights including health, education, security and access to justice.”

One of the experts, UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants Felipe González Morales, said: “The expiry of the DACA programme creates uncertainty and leaves the beneficiaries more vulnerable to arbitrary detention and discriminatory enforcement of deportation laws. It also raises concerns over collective expulsion and refoulement.”

Many DACA beneficiaries fear for their lives if they are forced to return to their countries of origin. “Our concerns are not only about what could happen to them, but also for the families that they would leave in the US,” the experts added.

ENDS

*The UN experts: Mr. Felipe González Morales, Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants; Ms. Elina Steinerte, Vice-Chair on Communications of the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention; Mr. Nils Melzer, Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment; Ms. Alda Facio, Chair of the UN Working Group on the issue of discrimination against women in law and in practice; and Ms. E. Tendayi Achiume, Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism.

The Special Rapporteurs and Working Groups are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.

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This year, 2018, is the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the UN on 10 December 1948. The Universal Declaration – translated into a world record 500 languages – is rooted in the principle that “all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.” It remains relevant to everyone, every day. In honour of the 70th anniversary of this extraordinarily influential document, and to prevent its vital principles from being eroded, we are urging people everywhere to Stand Up for Human Rights: www.standup4humanrights.org.