Costly and Unconstitutional Bill Would Lead to Unjust and Lifelong Incarceration of Immigrants Without Cause or Due Process

July 14, 2011 3:15 pm

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WASHINGTON – The House Judiciary Committee (HJC) today voted out of committee a costly and unconstitutional bill that would authorize the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to detain thousands of immigrants, potentially indefinitely, without due process. The HJC democrats offered many amendments in an attempt to make the indefinite detention bill constitutional. Under the provisions of the bill, called the “Keep Our Communities Safe Act,” many detainees would be deprived of bond hearings before an immigration judge, which are a basic component of justice in the United States. The American Civil Liberties Union strongly opposes this bill, H.R. 1932, because it violates both the Constitution and Supreme Court rulings protecting the rights of immigrants against indefinite detention.

Though the bill’s author Lamar Smith (R-TX) asserts it will protect people from “dangerous criminal immigrants,” the legislation would in fact lead to the detention of thousands more immigrants for years without first having a hearing before a judge. Some would be subjected to prolonged detention under the bill without ever having been charged with a crime and, in some instances, even after having won their cases before an immigration judge. Worsening a broken immigration detention system that costs $1.9 billion a year, the legislation would lock up lawful permanent residents, victims of persecution and torture, parents of U.S. citizen children and other upstanding members of our communities who have jobs, houses, businesses and significant American roots. The bill would also enormously expand DHS’s program of detaining indefinitely immigrants whom the government cannot deport to their countries of origin because of diplomatic problems, leading to potentially lifelong detention without the federal court oversight that our Constitution requires.

The following can be attributed to Laura W. Murphy, director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office:

“Today the House Judiciary Committee failed to respect its traditional role of upholding the Constitution. In voting a bill out of committee that would detain immigrants without just cause, the committee ran roughshod over our venerable safeguard of due process. The Supreme Court has consistently ruled that in America ‘liberty is the norm,’ and immigrants may not be locked up in potentially lifelong detention absent the strictest of conditions. This bill would subject some of the most vulnerable immigrants in our society to needless and expensive incarceration without the required checks and balances of federal court oversight. It is contrary to long-established constitutional law, fiscal prudence and common sense, and the ACLU urges the full House to vote against this legislation.”

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