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Don't criminalise immigrants: US Democrats

Democrats have warned against ensnaring religious leaders and undocumented parents whose children are US citizens.

india Updated: Mar 09, 2006 15:55 IST

Democrats have warned against ensnaring religious leaders and undocumented parents whose children are US citizens, as the Congress tries to secure American borders against potential terrorists and crack down on illegal immigration.

SenatorEdward M Kennedy, a Massachusetts Democrat, said that an Immigration Reform Bill undergoing refinement by the Senate Judiciary Committee, could make criminals of immigrants who omit information on applications and of religious leaders who offer help to non-citizen families.

"None of us want to make felonies out of refugees, trafficking victims or victims of domestic violence or hardworking immigrants we are persuading to come out of the shadows," Kennedy said.

Later yesterday, Republicans took opposing views on whether to build a fence along the border with Mexico to stem illegal entries.

Cardinal Roger Mahony, leader of the nation's largest Roman Catholic archdiocese in Los Angeles, last week called on church leaders and members to defy a border security bill passed by the House if it becomes law.

The House Bill would require churches and other social organisations to ask immigrants for legal documentation before providing assistance.

Republican Senator Richard Durbin proposed an amendment that would strike provisions making it a crime, rather than a civil violation, to be in the country illegally and for churches to provide humanitarian assistance to illegal immigrants.

First Published: Mar 09, 2006 15:30 IST