[JURIST] The Mexican government enacted a law [text, in Spanish] Monday prohibiting the government from sending illegal immigrants to prison. In May, Mexican rights activists pressed [JURIST report] Mexican President Felipe Calderón [official profile, in Spanish] to sign the bill, which is designed to amend the General Law of Population [text, PDF] and lighten penalties for illegal immigrants found in the country, after the measure passed the lower house of the Mexican Congress. Previously, illegal immigrants could be sentenced to prison terms ranging from 18 months to six years, but under the new legislation violators can be fined between $500 and $2,400 US. AP has more. El Universal has local coverage, in Spanish.
Proponents of the legislation see it as providing important protection for immigrants [JURIST news archive], many of whom pass through Mexico on their way from Central America to the US, and who are currently subject to harsh treatment and abuse by both criminal elements and law enforcement. Rights activists also hope the legislation will send a positive message to the US Congress about how Mexico treats immigrants within its own borders. Mexican officials are urging better treatment for Mexicans caught entering the US illegally, and Calderon has stressed this point [JURIST report] since the beginning of his administration.