Immigration Reform Markup Begins in the Senate

Encouraging Day for Civil Liberties, Including Racial Profiling Reform, Says ACLU

May 9, 2013

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: 212-549-2666, media@aclu.org

WASHINGTON – The Senate Judiciary Committee met today to begin a markup of the Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act (S. 744). The following statement can be attributed to Laura W. Murphy, director of the American Civil Liberties Union Washington Legislative Office:

“The immigration reform bill remained largely intact and unscathed after the first day of markup. The fact is that though the ‘Gang of Eight’ compromise has flaws, it represents movement in the right direction. We will continue to push for amendments that strengthen civil liberties and fight those that make the road to citizenship less fair, more difficult or more punitive.

“We will not rest until our nation’s promise of freedom and our national security require that we bring as many of the 11 million aspiring Americans out of the shadows, into legal status, and into a broad and inclusive road to full citizenship.”

Developments in today’s markup included the passage of key amendments that strengthen civil liberties protections in the bill:

  • Blumenthal 10 – Racial Profiling
    One key provision of this amendment says that oversight will be extended to a program that reimburses states and localities for criminal prosecution and detention of people in immigration cases initiated by the federal government. For example, with this amendment, the Attorney General will not reimburse when there is reason to believe the detention or prosecution resulted from a violation of the law by a law enforcement official, such as an act of racial profiling.
  • Feinstein 6 – Humane Conditions for Children in Customs and Border Patrol Custody

Amendments that would have weakened the bill failed, including:

  • Grassley 4, Cruz 1, and Sessions 9 – Border Enforcement
    Sen. Grassley’s (R-Iowa) amendment would have required federal law enforcement authorities to establish operational control of the entire U.S.-Mexico border for six months before allowing aspiring Americans to earn legal status.
  • Lee 4 – Unnecessary Hoops for Aspiring Americans
    This amendment would have added an unnecessary additional legislative process for temporary legal status applications by aspiring Americans to be processed.
  • Sessions 37 – Guts Border Patrol Use of Force Protections
    This amendment would have struck at the core of language highlighting the need for stronger protocols around Customs and Border Patrol use of force incidents.

Unfortunately, several problematic amendments did pass, including:

  • Grassley 1 – Border Enforcement
    Extends border enforcement build-up to areas not deemed to be high risk, which could lead to even more wasteful border spending in areas where it’s not needed.
  • Feinstein 1 – Pretextual Arrests
    Offers federal payments to state and local law enforcement agencies based on the charges, not convictions, of people they arrest. This would create an added financial incentive for local and state law enforcement agents to engage in racial profiling, making pretextual arrests of people they believe to be immigrants, even if they know the charges will not be sustained.
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