ACLU Opposes Faulty "Border Security" Bill, Proposal Would Require Workers to Get Government "Permission Slip"

December 15, 2005 12:00 am

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WASHINGTON - The American Civil Liberties Union today urged the House of Representatives to oppose a border security bill that fails to properly address the issue of illegal immigration, undermines due process and creates a federally mandated "permission slip" for all Americans. This sweeping legislation has not been thoroughly examined by Congress, and yet could be considered as early as today.

"Lawmakers have not had enough time to consider the enormous ramifications of this faulty bill; it must be rejected," said Caroline Fredrickson, Director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office. "This legislation would place an unprecedented burden on all American workers and American businesses, creating a federally mandated requirement for citizens as well as immigrants to get a permission slip from the federal government before they can take a job."

The House is considering HR 4437, the "The Border Protection, Antiterrorism, and Illegal Immigration Control Act of 2005," which also includes HR 4312, the "Border Security and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2005." Last week, the House Judiciary Committee approved the proposal on a party-line vote. The ACLU noted that, while HR 4312 has had some consideration by Congress, no substantive hearings have been held on the larger bill.

The legislation would create a sea-change in federal employment rules by requiring all workers in the country to obtain a federal agency’s permission to work. All employers would be required to participate in a national employment eligibility verification program in an expansion of the faulty but voluntary "Basic Pilot" program in current law. Like Basic Pilot, the new program would use an Internet-based system to check the names and social security numbers of all employees -- citizens and non-citizen alike -- against a Department of Homeland Security database.

The ACLU said that such a move would place a huge burden on both employers and workers. The non-partisan Government Accountability Office reported that conservative estimates of implementing such a system would cost at least $11.7 billion annually, a large share of which would be shouldered by businesses. Also, even assuming a near-perfect accuracy rate in the program, millions of legal, eligible American workers could still have their right to work seriously delayed or denied --fighting bureaucratic red tape to keep a job and pay bills. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other business organizations have expressed strong reservations with the employment verification provisions.

The legislation would also further undermine our immigration system. Specifically, the bill gives certain low-level immigration officials broad authority to ignore due process and expel individuals suspected of being here without authorization, further militarizes the border and expands mandatory detention rules to apply to many non-citizens arriving at a port of entry or even far from the border. The ACLU called these steps an unwarranted abridgement of the fair process all people are due under the plain language of our Constitution.

"Broad sweeping changes like these deserve thorough scrutiny before being given a vote," Fredrickson added. "If lawmakers cared about solving these problems rather than scoring political points, they would see this bill as the wrong approach to securing our borders."

To read the ACLU’s letter to Congress urging opposition to the Border Security bill, go to:

To read the ACLU’s Interested Person’s Memo on the immigration provisions in the bill, go to:

To read the ACLU’s Interested Person’s Memo on Employment Eligibility Verification programs, go to:

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