ACLU Applauds House Immigration Bill

September 19, 2000 12:00 am

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WASHINGTON — Calling it a down payment on restoring justice to the nation’s immigration laws, the American Civil Liberties Union today applauded House passage of legislation that would help some immigrants who have been unfairly targeted for deportation under a 1996 law.

“This legislation represents a down payment on what needs to be done to treat immigrants fairly,” said Gregory T. Nojeim, an ACLU Legislative Counsel.

The legislation, H.R. 5062, was adopted on a voice vote. The bill is sponsored by Reps. Bill McCollum, R-FL, and Barney Frank, D-MA. The legislation would allow some legal permanent residents to avoid being deported for minor crimes, such as shoplifting, that they may have committed decades ago.

Nojeim said that the ACLU and other organizations committed to restoring fairness to the nation’s immigration laws would work with senators from both parties to strengthen the legislation to restore judicial review to immigration proceedings and to repeal mandatory detention of immigrants.

Two bills adopted in 1996 — the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act and the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act — have led to a dramatic increase in the number of immigrants being detained and deported by the Immigration and Naturalization Service, many without the option of having court-review of their cases.

The ACLU and immigration advocates hope that the House bill adopted today could be amended in the Senate to restore judicial review of some INS decisions and to expand the ability of the government to release immigrants while their cases are being reviewed by the INS bureaucracy. Only those immigrants who can prove that they are not a danger to the community and would not flee would be eligible for release.

“Being jailed and deported inevitably separates people from their families and, as the Supreme Court has said, from all that makes life worth living,” Nojeim said. “It would be a tragedy if Congress were to leave town again without fixing the most egregious problems it created in 1996 that have torn apart families.”

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