ACLU Calls on House To Reject Defective Immigration Bills

September 21, 2006 12:00 am

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WASHINGTON - The American Civil Liberties Union today urged the House of Representatives to reject two immigration related measures. H.R. 6094, the Community Protection Act, and H.R. 6095, the Immigration Law Enforcement Act, will be voted on today. Both proposals waste scarce resources, unacceptably reduce or eliminate due process for both legal and undocumented immigrants, expand constitutionally suspect detention removal powers and procedures, and threaten civil liberties.

"With elections looming, the House is yet again focusing on ill-advised measures that score political points at the expense of our civil liberties," said Caroline Fredrickson, Director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office. "These proposals would undermine the very freedoms that serve as the backbone of America. We urge all lawmakers to reject these unwise and unfair bills."

H.R. 6094 would broaden the constitutionally dubious practice of indefinite detention. The Supreme Court has twice ruled that indefinite detention raises constitutional concerns, yet the bill unwisely expands that power. The ACLU noted the holding of people indefinitely is inhumane, an enormous waste of scarce detention resources and a power expected of repressive regimes, not of our own.

The bill also limits the type of claims immigrants can bring to challenge unlawful detention and would funnel all such challenges into one U.S. District Court. Similar proposals were included in the immigration reform bills that had previously stalled in Congress earlier this year.

H.R. 6095 would expand the unjust practice of expedited removal -- deportation without a lawyer, hearing, or court review. Low-level immigration officials, and not judges, would be given the power to remove individuals. The ACLU noted that even under the current system, expedited removal has resulted in terrible mistakes, including the wrongful deportation of genuine refugees and even U.S. citizens. An expansion of that power would only exacerbate those problems.

The bill also seeks to empower scarce state and local law enforcement officers to enforce federal immigration laws. Local officials have rejected similar proposals, as they would 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 immigrant population afraid to report crimes out of fear of being deported.

"Immigration reform should not be pursued at the expense of due process and civil liberties," said Timothy D. Sparapani, an ACLU Legislative Counsel. "Many of these proposals come from the same anti-immigrant playbook that the Republican majority has used before, and must be stopped."

The ACLU’s letter on the two bills is available at:

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