ACLU Counsel Testifies on Immigration Concerns In Anti-Terrorism Legislation

October 12, 2001 12:00 am

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WASHINGTON — Timothy H. Edgar, Legislative Counsel with the American Civil Liberties Union’s Washington National Office, testified this morning in front of the United States Commission on Civil Rights on civil liberties concerns with new immigration provisions in the anti-terrorism legislation currently moving through Congress.

“”Unfortunately, many provisions in the anti-terrorism legislation go far beyond anything necessary to fight terrorism,”” Edgar said. “”The long-term impact on basic freedoms in this legislation cannot be justified.””

In his testimony, Edgar commented on both the House and Senate versions of anti-terrorism legislation and characterized the Senate legislation – which passed the chamber late last night – as the more troublesome for civil liberties.

Specifically, Edgar said that the legislation would still permit administrative detention of non-citizens based merely on the Attorney General’s certification that he has “reasonable grounds to believe” the non-citizen endangers national security, the standard that normally allows only for a brief “”stop and frisk.”” In addition, non-citizens ordered removed to countries that would not accept them could be indefinitely detained.

Edgar also briefly addressed the issue of the Senate bill’s expansion of law enforcement’s power to conduct secret searches, also known as “”sneak and peak”” searches, which allow officers to conduct a physical search without giving notice to the party whose property is being searched. The ACLU is worried that such powers would infringe on Fourth Amendment rights, which require notice to the subject of the search so he or she can point out irregularities in the warrant.

“”Many of the provisions in both the Senate and the House bill do not meet the basic test of maximizing security and, at the same time, minimizing any adverse effects to civil liberties,”” said Edgar.

Edgar noted that our country’s record on civil liberties in times of crisis is mixed, alluding to the notorious Palmer raids shortly after World War I, in which hundreds of people were deported on account of their political beliefs. “”Our country has thankfully come a long way since those dark days,”” Edgar said, and urged continued oversight to ensure the extraordinary powers the Attorney General seeks are not abused.

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