Comprehensive Immigration Reform Unveiled

December 16, 2009 10:44 am

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Bill Addresses Longstanding Problems In Immigration Enforcement Practices But Fails To Protect Workers And Same-Sex Couples

December 16, 2009

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WASHINGTON – Congressman Luis V. Gutierrez (D-IL), along with members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, the Congressional Black Caucus, the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus and the Congressional Progressive Caucus, introduced late Tuesday HR 4321, The Comprehensive Immigration Reform for America’s Security and Prosperity Act of 2009 (CIR ASAP), legislation that takes major strides toward repairing America’s broken immigration system. The American Civil Liberties Union strongly supports responsible reforms to U.S. immigration policy and calls on Congress to ensure that any legislation protects the civil rights, civil liberties and human rights of everyone in the United States, regardless of his or her immigration status.

“The ACLU applauds Rep. Gutierrez for introducing an historic bill that sets forth critical reforms to the immigration detention, deportation and enforcement system that comport with due process, the Constitution and international human rights norms,” said Joanne Lin, ACLU Legislative Counsel. “This is the first comprehensive immigration reform bill that aims to rectify some of the egregious immigration practices set in place since 1996, including mandatory detention of immigrants for minor crimes; delegation of immigration enforcement and verification to states and localities, and denial of judicial review to immigrants facing deportation and permanent separation from U.S. citizen family members.”

CIR ASAP contains numerous provisions aimed at restoring due process in immigration enforcement actions. Such reforms would:

  • Suspend Operation Streamline pending review of the program’s goals, impacts and cost-benefit analyses;
  • Require DHS to meet detention condition requirements to ensure adequate medical care and to avoid unnecessary detainee transfers;
  • Establish a strong presumption against detention of families with children and prohibit expedited removal of families;
  • Provide access to immigration counsel during enforcement actions and for disabled individuals unable to fully participate in deportation hearings;
  • Require timely notice and service of immigration charges, as well as timely bond hearings for people detained more than 48 hours;
  • Limit the use of immigration detainers to confirmed removable aliens;
  • Improve secure alternative to detention programs by establishing criteria to guide detention and release decisions, and ensuring immigration judge review of all detention decisions;
  • Pre-empt any state or local law that discriminates against people based on immigration status;
  • Repeal the fundamentally flawed 287(g) program and clarify that immigration enforcement authority belongs exclusively to the federal government;
  • Restore federal jurisdiction of immigration decisions and practices, thereby restoring the historic role that federal courts have long played in checking federal agency conduct.

However, despite the many positive reforms included in CIR ASAP, the bill falls short of being “comprehensive,” as it fails to include immigration parity provisions that would allow gay U.S. citizens and permanent residents to sponsor their permanent partners for permanent residency, an immigration right that heterosexual spouses have long enjoyed. Without these immigration parity protections, immigrant families in the U.S., including many with U.S. citizen children, will continue to be torn asunder.

CIR ASAP also includes invasive electronic employment verification which, if implemented, would require employers to use error filled government databases to confirm work authorization for every American. The system would also require the storage of more personal information about workers and increase the risk of data breaches and identity theft.

“While we are encouraged by the willingness of congressional leaders to tackle immigration reform, we are disappointed in the inclusion of electronic employment verification and we urge lawmakers to remove any language that creates such a system,” said Christopher Calabrese, ACLU Policy Legislative Counsel. “Errors in electronic employment verification are significant barriers to employment and violate the rights of innocent workers. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce also estimates they will cost employers and society billions. In this current economic climate, the last thing we need is higher business costs or another hurdle standing between a worker and a job. While we support the efforts of leaders in the House and Senate to bring real reforms to the immigration system, Americans should not be expected to trade away their privacy rights as payment for these reforms.”

The ACLU commends Rep. Gutierrez for introducing this historic CIR bill and urges the Senate to adopt many of the bill’s immigration enforcement reform provisions when the Senate takes up CIR early next year. The ACLU further urges that any Senate CIR bill be truly “comprehensive” by ensuring immigration parity for all American families, whether they involve heterosexual or same-sex permanent partners.

To see the ACLU’s statement on the necessary elements of meaningful immigration reform, see:

To see a summary of CIR ASAP, see:

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