ACLU Urges House Panel to Reject Terrorism Bill

June 22, 1999 12:00 am

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WASHINGTON — The American Civil Liberties Union today urged a House subcommittee to reject a bill that would strip many immigrants of their rights to freedom of speech and association.

The bill, introduced by Rep. Robert Andrews, D-NJ, would resurrect the “guilt by association” principles of a McCarthy era law repealed by Congress in 1990 after being struck down by the courts. The Andrews legislation, H.R. 2184, would require the deportation of immigrants who are members of a group deemed to be a “terrorist organization,” even if the person has not engaged in any violent activity.

The Immigration and Claims Subcommittee of the House Judiciary Committee is scheduled to vote on the Andrews measure today. The bill marks the third of a series of measures introduced by Rep. Andrews this year that would unconstitutionally infringe on the rights of non-citizens to associate with others.

“Under the Andrews legislation, even U.S.-based members of the Sinn Fein and the Kosovo Liberation Army could be deported,” said Gregory T. Nojeim, an ACLU Legislative Counsel. “One of the most fundamental underpinnings of our democracy is that people should be punished for illegal or violent acts — not for constitutionally protected activity such as membership in a group or speech.”

In addition to stripping away free speech and association rights, the ACLU said that the Andrews legislation would also effectively give the Immigration and Naturalization Service the power to decide which domestic organizations are to be classified as “terrorist organizations.”

The ACLU said that the Andrews measure would resurrect the discredited “Red Scare” McCarran-Walter Act, which allowed for the deportation of immigrants who were members of the Communist Party or who advocated communism or other disfavored political doctrines. Under that law, the United States denied visas to people such as Pierre Trudeau, the former Prime Minister of Canada, and several authors who had won the Nobel Prize.

“Rather than adopt unconstitutional measures that will face challenge in the courts,” Nojeim said, “we urge the committee to instead focus on legislation that addresses the true nature of terrorism: violent or illegal conduct.”

An ACLU memorandum on the Andrews bill can be found at: /node/20806

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