Why no bill is better than a bad bill

The Senate version of the Immigration bill, the supposed ‘moderate’ bill, contains some really ugly stuff. Emphasis added.

Call your Senator, get in the streets, let’s stop this noxious bill.

From the Immigrant Solidarity listserv. (I’m printing the whole thing because it’s not online yet.)

Here’s six egregious provisions in the Senate Judiciary Committee’s Bill (The Chairman’s Mark/Specter Bill), prepared by New York Immigrant Defense Project.

1. Expedited Removal

The Specter bill allows the government to remove more immigrants without any court hearing. Any immigrant who is found within 14 days of arrival and within 100 miles of the Mexican or Canadian borders — for example, immigrants found in El Paso, San Diego and Detroit – would be subject to this. This would allow ICE to grab people from the streets and increases the ability of the Federal government to engage in selective enforcement.

A separate provision would allow the government to remove any immigrant without a court hearing simply by claiming that they have been convicted of an aggravated felony or a firearm offense — with limited ability to challenge the changes against them and without having the right to apply for relief that may have been available to them.

Why this is bad: This provision would give the Department of Homeland Security unfettered authority to determine who is subject to “expedited removal” and would result in people being detained the ability to have a fair hearing. People who may have a basis to fight their deportation will be deported without being able to present their case.

2. Expansion of term “Aggravated Felony

The Specter bill expands this term to include misdemeanor drunk driving offenses, minor accessory roles in the conduct of others, additional document-related offenses, providing some types of assistance to undocumented friends, neighbors and family members.

Why this is bad: The provision would result in the mandatory detention and deportation of greencard holders and others who are in the U.S. on visas, such as students. A judge would have no discretion to consider whether a person has a long standing ties to the U.S., kids or a spouse who is a U.S. citizen, law changed that her life around, or other equities.

3. Expansion of mandatory detention and increase in detention beds

The Specter bill increases detention by 50% with the addition of 10,000 beds and allows military bases to be used to meet this increase.

Why this is bad: this expands a system that is already rife with abuse and substandard conditions and exponentially ballooning costs (currently it costs approximate $85 – $100/person per day). It creates armed camps around the country while seducing local communities with the lure of jobs and breaks in their property taxes.

In addition, a separate provision could lead to the mandatory detention of immigrants who fail to file a change of address form with Department of Homeland Security (DHS) within 10 days. This ignores the DHS’s problem with its address system, languages issues, and confusion about where to file address changes.

Why this is bad: It takes away the right to an individual hearing, separates families – children from parents, partners from each other – for long periods of time, and forces people to languish in detention centers for from their homes. The threat of this protracted period of detention also encourages people to give up on fighting their deportation cases and impinges on access control.

4. Indefinite Detention

The Specter bill would overturn Supreme Court decisions and allow the government to indefinitely detain many immigrants with final orders. This would be applied retroactively to individuals.

Why this is bad: Like mandatory detention, indefinite detention also separates families and forces people to languish in detention centers far from their homes. Allowing the Federal government to indefinitely detain such large numbers of people will also contribute to the high cost.

5. Local Law Enforcement

While it does not go as far as some proposed legislation to require cooperation between immigration authorities and local law enforcement, the Specter bill encourages local police to enter into agreements which allow them to enforce immigration law and gives local governments the inherent authority to enforce immigration law.

Why this is bad: This provision would be a public safety disaster. By turning local law enforcement into immigration police, immigrants would be afraid to turn to local police, social service agencies, and even emergency services for assistance.

It also authorizes state and local governments to issues detainers to hold any immigrant after they finish a state prison sentence until DHS takes custody and to detain any “illegal alien” who is removable or not lawfully present for 14 days after completion of a prison sentence.

Why this is bad: These provisions would allow local governments to determine whether a person is a non-citizen, is lawful present or removable, which they are not equipped to make. It also gives them free reign to detain immigrants for long periods of time with no criminal or immigration charges filed against them, and invites widespread abuse, including racial profiling, retaliation against specific persons or groups.

6. Increased Border Militarization

Why this is bad: The indiscriminate increase in border patrol agents and resources for enforcement will lead to more deaths on the border and increased militarization of border communities.

This nasty, racist bill must not be allowed to pass.

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