ACLU Letter to the House of Representatives Urging Opposition to H.R. 4437

Document Date: December 13, 2005

RE: Vote NO on H.R. 4437 – Reject the DHS permission slip to work; protect due process

Dear Representative:

The American Civil Liberties Union (“ACLU”), a non-partisan organization with nearly 600,000 members, urges you to vote against H.R. 4437, the Border Protection, Antiterrorism, and Illegal Immigration Control Act of 2005.

H.R. 4437 would erode critical civil liberties. The bill would further militarize the border and would require low-level immigration officials to expel, without a hearing, anyone found within 100 miles of the border believed to be a recently arrived undocumented immigrant other than a citizen of Mexico or Canada. It expands mandatory detention rules to apply to such non-citizens arriving at a port of entry or “along” the border and it would further erode the basic rights of immigrants to judicial review, even by the constitutionally guaranteed writ of habeas corpus.

H.R. 4437 would criminalize presence in the United States in violation of an immigration law or regulation, even technical and paperwork violations, and gives the government extraordinary powers to detain non-citizens indefinitely without meaningful review. This could place many non-citizens in a legal “black hole” that effectively subjects them to a life sentence after they have served a criminal sentence of limited duration. In some cases, it could result in indefinite detention of non-citizens who have not even been convicted of any crime, including those who have fled persecution or who cannot be deported because they would be tortured if returned.

H.R. 4437 would also create a card that would serve as a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) “permission slip” to work. Both U.S. citizens and work-authorized immigrants would have to get such cards. H.R. 4437 expands the Basic Pilot Employment Verification System (“Basic Pilot”) program to all United States employers and employees, which would gravely threaten Americans’ personal privacy. The program requires employers to check documents that establish an employee’s citizenship or work eligibility against DHS and Social Security databases, transforming Social Security cards and other documents into what amounts to a DHS “permission slip.”

The implementation of a nationwide Basic Pilot program would be prohibitively expensive for employers. The Government Accountability Office estimates it will cost at least $11.7 billion per year to expand the fatally flawed Basic Pilot nationwide, and that employers will bear most of the costs. This expansion of the Basic Pilot program faces significant technical obstacles, and expansion will have very little or no effect on the immigration problems our country faces. Instead, this legislation would unfairly burden honest American employers, and its “permission slip” card lays the groundwork for a national ID system.

While measures are needed to secure the borders and enforce the immigration laws, H.R. 4437 offers a flawed approach that will harm civil liberties and would not do enough to resolve the difficult problem of illegal immigration. The ACLU strongly opposes this legislation and urges you to vote against its final passage.


Caroline Fredrickson, Director
Washington Legislative Office

Timothy Sparapani,
Legislative Counsel for Privacy Rights

Lisa Graves,
Senior Counsel on Legislative Strategy

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