ACLU Endorses Bill to End Use of Secret Evidence

May 19, 1999 12:00 am

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Wednesday, May 19, 1999

WASHINGTON -- Saying that no one should be deported or kept in jail on the basis of secret evidence, the American Civil Liberties Union strongly endorsed legislation introduced today to eliminate the use of secret evidence in immigration cases.

The legislation, introduced by Reps. Tom Campbell, R-CA, and David Bonior, D-MI, would ensure that no immigrant is deported or denied any benefit under the Immigration and Nationality Act based on secret evidence.

"The use of secret evidence is a feature of totalitarian governments," Gregory T. Nojeim, an ACLU Legislative Counsel, told a Capitol Hill news conference. "It goes against everything our country stands for. People here have the right to know the evidence against them and to be given an opportunity to rebut it."

The Immigration and Nationalization Service is currently using secret evidence in approximately two dozen cases, the ACLU said, almost all of which involve Arabs and Muslims. In one of these cases, the ACLU represents Nasser Ahmed, a 37-year-old Egyptian immigrant who has been separated from his family, threatened with deportation and likely torture based on evidence that the government refuses to disclose. He has been held in solitary confinement for three years.

"We hope that this day marks the beginning of the end of the use of secret evidence to deport people," Nojeim said. "The Campbell-Bonior bill tells the INS to either disclose evidence or withdraw it from the record. We strongly support it."

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