As 109th Congress Convenes, Rep. Sensenbrenner Sets Anti-Immigrant Tone

January 4, 2005 12:00 am

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WASHINGTON — As members of Congress return to Washington to open the 109th Congress, House Judiciary Committee Chairman James Sensenbrenner (R-WI) is set to introduce legislation that the American Civil Liberties Union called an uncalled-for assault on immigrants. The new Sensenbrenner legislation includes controversial provisions that were pulled from the intelligence reform legislation adopted by Congress last year.

“Rep. Sensenbrenner has chosen to make his first priority an unwarranted attack on immigrants,” said Timothy H. Edgar, an ACLU Legislative Counsel. “This legislation would do little to enhance our security, but it would undermine our national commitment to freedom and liberty.”

The bill will reportedly ban states from issuing drivers licenses to undocumented immigrants and make it easier to send asylum-seekers back to the countries they are fleeing if they cannot provide written “corroboration” of their claims.

The use of state motor vehicle agencies as agents of the federal immigration service would further the trend, alarming to both conservatives and progressives, of transforming drivers license into de facto national ID cards. The use of state motor vehicle agencies as agents of the federal immigration service would lead to an increase in unlicensed drivers, undermining public safety and increasing insurance rates for everyone, the ACLU said. Motor vehicles employees lack training in federal immigration law, and are likely instead to rely on ethnic profiling based on a clerk’s notion of who “looks foreign.”

The bill is also expected to include a measure that allows government officials, contrary to international law, to demand written “corroboration,” such as police reports or other official documents, of asylum claims. “Some asylum applicants will have to show what amounts to a note from their persecutors,” Edgar said. Federal law already gives officials ample discretion to deny improper asylum claims, and asylum applicants are subject to much more extensive scrutiny than virtually any other pool of non-citizens seeking to come to the United States.

Others have expressed concerns over the immigration proposals. Former Congressman Bob Barr and the executive director of Gun Owners of America, Larry Pratt, wrote in a Washington Times op-ed last November that the asylum provisions called for by Rep. Sensenbrenner would “[force] Christians and others fleeing prosecution to provide written ‘corroboration’ from the very officials they are fleeing.”

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