Border Protection?

House of Representatives to consider blatantly anti-immigrant and mean-spirited piece of legislation

By Ana Gallardo
Published on LatinoLA: December 15, 2005

Border Protection?

I write to you in opposition to H.R. 4437, the Border Protection, Anti-Terrorism, and Illegal Immigration Control Act of 2005. This legislation is being considered on the floor of the House of Representatives.

On Tuesday, December 6, 2005, Representative James Sensenbrenner (R-Wisconsin) introduced the Border Protection, Anti-Terrorism, and Illegal Immigration Control Act of 2005. The legislation is a sweeping enforcement-only measure which targets legal and illegal immigrants alike and further eviscerates due process protections for immigrants in this
nation. Among the harmful provisions in this measure are:

* Mandatory detention provisions which would require the detention of all immigrants without status until deportation. Under this provision, vulnerable groups, such as women, children, asylum seekers, and torture survivors would be jailed with in prisons and prison-like detention centers with hardened criminals.

* Makes "unlawful presence" a crime and an aggravated felony for immigration purposes, barring undocumented immigrants from any future legal status and authorizing local law enforcement to arrest these immigrants.

* Grants the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) the authority to deny naturalization to legal immigrants on the basis that they are removable on terrorist grounds, without any evidentiary showing to a court or any judicial review.

* Grants DHS and the Department of Justice the authority to deny an immigrant legal benefits for lack of good moral character based on a "discretionary finding or other reasons." This would allow DHS officers the ability to deny benefits to an immigrant because of physical appearance or demeanor.

* Denies refugees and asylum seekers the opportunity to apply for permanent residency if they are convicted of an aggravated felony, including minor crimes such as shoplifting or other minor theft.

* Increases penalties for smuggling but narrows the definition in a way that church groups and U.S. citizens may be impacted simply for offering humanitarian assistance to an undocumented immigrant.

* Expands the use of expedited removal to within 100 miles of the U.S.-Mexico border, giving law enforcement the authority to remove a non-citizen without providing an opportunity for an asylum claim to be heard by a qualified adjudicator.

* Overrules a Supreme Court decision requiring the release of immigrants who cannot be returned to their home countries, keeping them in indefinite detention for life.

H.R. 4437 does not address the problems of our immigration system. Rather, it is a blatantly anti-immigrant and mean-spirited piece of legislation which will not solve our immigration problems but will strike fear in immigrant communities throughout the nation. It denies legal immigrants basic U.S. protections such as due process and jeopardizes U.S. citizens and humanitarian organizations who provide life-saving assistance to immigrants. HR 4437 should be defeated for the following reasons:

HR 4437 does nothing to solve our immigration crisis. By focusing on border and interior enforcement and stripping due process protections and judicial review, this legislation will drive immigrants underground even further, creating a permanent underclass in our society. The legislation does nothing to reform the legal immigration system and will not
discourage migrants from attempting to enter the United States and work.

HR 4437 would jeopardize U.S. citizens and humanitarian organizations. The legislation creates strong criminal penalties for anyone or any organization which assists persons without documentation in the United States and does so "in reckless disregard" of whether that person is indeed without legal status. It does not exclude emergency situations or situations in which a humanitarian organization provides basic needs assistance to those who ask for it.

HR 4437 denies basic due process protections to legal immigrants, refugees, and asylum-seekers. Several provisions in the measure would deny basic due process protections to legal immigrants, refugees, and asylum-seekers. It gives unfettered authority to the Department of Homeland Security to deny benefits to legal immigrants, such as
naturalization, without a showing to a court or judicial review. It bars adjustment of status to refugees who may commit misdemeanors. It denies access to a qualified adjudicator for asylum seekers who are detained by the Border Patrol or other immigration enforcement officers and bars review of the decision by a federal court.

HR 4437 disrupts immigrant and local communities because it criminalizes undocumented immigrants, giving local law enforcement authority to arrest immigrants because of their undocumented status. The legislation will increase the strain between local law enforcement and immigrant communities by making criminals of immigrants present in the United States without legal status. Local law enforcement, which are charged with helping to enforce federal criminal law, will now be able to arrest and detain an immigrant without legal documents. Immigrants will not longer trust law enforcement to report real criminal offenses in their communities.

HR 4437 separates families. Several provisions of the legislation will separate families, including mandatory detention, which will inevitably lead to the separation of families; the criminalization of unlawful presence, which prohibits an undocumented family member from attaining future legal status; and curtailing judicial review of deportation cases.

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