ACLU Says INS Restructuring Insufficient; Calls for Change in Basic Laws

April 10, 2002 12:00 am

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WASHINGTON – The American Civil Liberties Union today said that a proposed restructuring of the Immigration and Naturalization Service would, without a change in basic immigration laws, be inadequate to fix the troubled agency.

“Many of the high-profile mistakes and injustices for which INS is blamed come not from its administrative structure but from the unfair, short-sighted and overly harsh laws Congress has required it to enforce,” said Timothy Edgar, an ACLU Legislative Counsel. “Changes in these laws must be the common sense and compassionate part of any immigration overhaul.”

Edgar’s specific concerns were contained in a letter, co-signed by a coalition of immigrant and human rights groups and sent today to Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-WI), Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, and to the Committee’s Ranking Member, Rep. John Conyers (D-MI).

In the letter, the coalition calls for the return of basic fairness and due process to American immigration law though passage of sensible, bipartisan and common-sense reform legislation currently pending in Congress. These efforts need to address three system-wide problems, Edgar said:

  • Due process for long-term legal residents. Currently, laws require mandatory deportation of legal non-citizens convicted of minor crimes, disregarding mitigating factors such as length of residency, evidence of rehabilitation and family and community ties.
  • Protection for unaccompanied children. Holes in the law permit mistreatment of immigrant minors and allow many of these unaccompanied children to fall through cracks in the system. Frequently unaware of their rights, immigrant children are often locked up with violent young offenders in criminal detention facilities and then left to fend for themselves, without legal counsel, against highly experienced INS attorneys.
  • Protection of refugees. Laws that allow the expedited removal or indefinite detention of people who come to America legitimately seeking a safe haven from persecution in their home countries often result in tragic mistakes, tarnishing our nation’s commitment to refugee protection.

    “Immigration laws in America have for too long been out-of-line with this country’s compassionate sensibilities,” Edgar said. “Passage of these common sense reforms would inject fairness and real due process into a sickly system.”

    The Letter can be found at:

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