ACLU Letter to the House of Representatives Urging Opposition to H.R. 6094 and H.R. 6095

September 21, 2006

ACLU Urges Vote No on H.R. 6094 and H.R. 6095

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Dear Representative,

On behalf of the ACLU, a non-partisan organization with hundreds of thousands of activists and members and 53 affiliates nationwide, we urge you to vote against H.R. 6094, the Community Protection Act, and H.R. 6095, the Immigration Law Enforcement Act.  In urging “no” votes, the ACLU concludes that these misnamed bills waste scarce resources, unacceptably reduce or eliminate due process for both legal and undocumented immigrants, expand constitutionally infirm detention removal powers and procedures, and threaten civil liberties. 

In particular, H.R. 6094 must be opposed because it:

Broadens the constitutionally infirm practice of indefinite detention.  The U.S. Supreme Court has twice ruled that indefinite detention raises constitutional concerns, yet this bill unwisely expands that power instead of eliminating the Department of Homeland Security’s (“DHS’) authority to hold certain immigrants whose asylum claims are denied.  The holding of people indefinitely because they have been ordered to return to a country that will not accept them is inhumane and an enormous waste of scarce detention resources.  Indefinite detention is a feature we expect of repressive regimes, not of our own. 

  • Legislation is not needed on this issue.  Instead of broadening this practice, Congress should end it.  Over 1,000 individuals are subjected to indefinite detention at the present time.  In some cases, it is not possible for the government to deport these individuals because the U.S. does not maintain diplomatic relations with the country of origin. 

Limits the type of claims immigrants can bring to challenge unlawful detention.  Unwisely, the bill would eliminate existing avenues for challenging the implementation of regulations and statutes governing detention.  Instead, immigrants who are subjected to the well-documented bureaucratic bungling and abuse of detention authority by Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”) would be limited to bringing Constitutional challenges to their detention under the Writ of Habeas Corpus. Such claim-limiting provisions ignore ICE’s failures. As we ramp up the number of detention facilities, we should not eliminate the ability to have courts review cases in which ICE’s treatment of non-citizens falls below the standards Congress has established for detention.

Funnels all challenges to detentions into one U.S. District Court.  Compounding the problems posed by proposed claims limitations, the bill would create only one proper venue for challenging detention conditions and decisions about whether a non-citizen should be detained – the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.  Neither this Court, nor any other federal District Court, is equipped to handle such an enormous increase in its docket.  Congress has not provided sufficient resources, nor has it added judgeships to this Court to handle such a case.  Rather than increasing the efficient processing of immigrants and aliens, such a funneling of cases will create a new backlog of immigration cases.  

Expands the unjust practice of expedited removal -- deportation without a lawyer, hearing, or court review.  Expedited removal would be vastly broadened under H.R. 6095.  The bill would grant extraordinary and unprecedented power to low-level immigration officers to remove individuals believed to be recently arrived undocumented immigrants within 100 miles of the border, without review or a fair hearing.  Even as currently applied, expedited removal has resulted in terrible mistakes, including its wrongful application to genuine refugees and even to U.S. citizens.  In short, the application of expedited removal – in its current form – needs reform. 

  • Expedited removal should be fixed, not expanded.  Expanding it will inevitably result in the wrongful arrest and possible deportation of legal residents and even U.S. citizens who are of Mexican-American heritage or who “look foreign” to a Border Patrol officer.

Finally, H.R. 6095 should be opposed because it:

Will lead to a diversion of scarce state and local law enforcement resources away from stopping crime.  Despite widespread opposition by police organizations and departments across the nation, the bill would authorize state and local law enforcement agencies to enforce civil immigration law violations.  Although it would not require state and local police to enforce the immigration laws, it will undermine carefully won trust between the police and new immigrant communities, leading to an overall reduction in public safety, with a large segment of the population afraid to report crimes out of fear of being deported.

Erects new barriers to judicial review.  The bill would eliminate the ability of federal District Courts to enjoin behavior and practices by ICE and DHS that violate regulations, laws and our Constitution.  Under the bill, ICE and DHS could seek to have injunctions vacated if judges do not respond to motions to vacate these injunctions within 15 days.  Injunctions are granted when judges believe true violations that need reform have been demonstrated.  The lengthy, well-documented history of abuses by these two bureaucracies demonstrates the need for occasional court oversight.  Yet, these bills would effectively strip that check on DHS and ICE power.  Given the high workloads faced by America's federal courts, it is all too likely that many meritorious immigration appeals would never receive serious review from a judge and would be dismissed without any judicial consideration of their merits.

In short, these bills do not live up to their promise.  The ACLU has little hope that the bills can achieve immigration reform that does not lessen immigrants’ due process and threaten their civil liberties.

Again, the ACLU urges “no” votes on H.R. 6094 and H.R. 6095.  Thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely,

Caroline Fredrickson
Director

Tim Sparapani
Legislative Counsel

 

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