House Includes Asylum and Privacy Assault in 'Must Pass' Funding Bill; ACLU Urges Senate to Reject Sensenbrenner Measure

March 16, 2005 12:00 am

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WASHINGTON – The House of Representatives today attached controversial anti-immigration legislation to an emergency military funding bill. The American Civil Liberties Union urged the Senate to reject the House’s efforts to evade regular legislative order, saying that the REAL ID Act would make it more difficult to seek asylum, lay the foundation for a national ID card and chill free speech.

“REAL ID was wrong when it was first considered, and attaching it to ‘must pass’ legislation doesn’t make it right,” said Timothy Edgar, an ACLU policy counsel for national security. “We urge senators to give this issue a full examination – a process that the House failed to do. When they do, they will realize that America’s values are not based on turning away asylum seekers who have been persecuted in their homelands or creating a system of internal checkpoints.”

The House had previously adopted the REAL ID Act by a vote of 261 to 161. Today’s vote on H.R. 1268, the Emergency Supplemental Wartime Appropriations Act, was 388 to 43. The House Rules Committee attached the REAL ID Act to the funding measure.

The REAL ID garnered opposition from a myriad of groups including the ACLU and conservative, religious, immigrants’ rights and other civil liberties groups. Other groups expressing opposition include (list conservative and religious groups here).

Specifically, the bill would make it easier for the government to send asylum-seekers back to the countries they are fleeing if they cannot provide written “corroboration” of their claims, a move contrary to international law.

The REAL ID Act would also make it possible to deport long-term, lawful, permanent residents for providing non-violent, humanitarian support to organizations labeled “terrorist” by the government. This provision would apply even when such support was completely legal at the time it was provided.

Another provision would force states to deny drivers’ licenses to undocumented immigrants. The use of state motor vehicle agencies as agents of the federal immigration service would further the growing trend of transforming drivers’ licenses into de facto national ID cards. Motor vehicles employees lack training in federal immigration law, and are likely instead to rely on ethnic profiling based on notions of who “looks foreign.”

“A bill that has such a far reaching impact on the lives of Americans and asylum seekers deserves to be more than a stealth measure,” Edgar added. “Our freedom and privacy must not be swept away by Congress, especially when there has been so little discussion. We hope that cooler heads in the Senate will prevail.”

The ACLU’s letter on REAL ID is online at:
/node/21353

A coalition letter to the House urging opposition to the REAL ID Act can be read at:
/node/21348

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