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Letter to President Bush Urges Changes in Recent Administration Policies

Cite as "AILA InfoNet Doc. No. 02102940 (posted Oct. 29, 2002)"

October 29, 2002

The Honorable George W. Bush
President of the United States
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, D.C. 20500

Dear President Bush:

The undersigned organizations write this letter because of our concerns about measures your Administration recently has proposed, supported, and implemented that have harmed America’s newcomers and are contrary to our country’s tradition as a nation of immigrants. We believe it is critical for our government to protect us from those who would do us harm. It is equally important that we distinguish between the few who mean to harm us and the vast majority of newcomers who come to embrace this nation and the American Dream.

We applauded the positive statements you made after the terrorist attacks that were instrumental in binding our nation together. Since then, however, many of your Administration's initiatives have left immigrant communities nationwide feeling besieged and isolated, targeted innocent people who have come to this country to reunite with their families and fill our labor market needs, and caused many to question America’s commitment to its core values. These initiatives have broadly targeted immigrants, refugees, and visitors and have provided few, if any, advantages in the battle against terrorism, when what is needed is to pinpoint and isolate a handful of persons who come to do us harm.

We are especially concerned about the following troubling measures:

  • Your Administration advocates moving our immigration functions within the proposed Department of Homeland Security. Placing immigration within the new department sends the signal that all immigrants are potential terrorists, not people coming to this country to help build America. Moreover, you have advanced proposals that would bury all federal immigration functions within the largest proposed division of the new Homeland Security Department. Taking a deeply troubled Immigration Service and melding it into such a massive division with tens of thousands of employees is a recipe for failure for our immigration adjudications and enforcement functions and will not meet our security needs. You also have supported restructuring these functions within this new department in a way that would make problematic the effective, efficient, coordinated and fair provision of services and lead to differing interpretations and implementation of the law at our borders and interior. Moreover, you have proposed measures that would severely weaken the independence and impartiality of our immigration courts.
     
  • Over 1,200 immigrants were detained after September 11, with some still in detention. The vast majority of these people have not been charged with criminal or terrorism-related activities. Your administration is keeping the identities of these people secret, and is putting them through secret immigration proceedings.
     
  • As many as seven million hardworking, taxpaying workers are threatened with losing their jobs as the result of initiatives of the Social Security Administration (SSA). The SSA's efforts appear to run counter to the goal you articulated with Mexican President Vicente Fox to match willing workers and employers.
     
  • The Department of Justice recently announced that it would begin enforcing a change of address notification requirement, with deportation a possible penalty. While at first blush such a requirement seems both reasonable and necessary, the punishment does not fit the violation. It makes no sense to make enforcement of this obscure law a priority given that the Immigration and Naturalization Service is unable to handle the huge volume of forms or record the information it receives.
     
  • The Department of Justice is requiring the fingerprinting, photographing and registering of nationals of certain countries. This measure offers little protection against terrorism while subjecting individuals to a lengthy and complicated procedure. This measure will subject innocent people to arrest and deportation for failure to report on time to authorities. It also will waste precious resources because it would be applied to people who already have been screened and determined to be admissible to the U.S.
     
  • Without justification or explanation, the Department of Justice appears to have changed a long-standing legal opinion so that state and local law enforcement now have "inherent authority" to enforce civil and criminal violations of immigration law. Among other consequences, this change will make it more difficult for police to build trust in immigrant communities and will discourage immigrants from coming forward with information that might make us safer.
     
  • Your Administration has dramatically curtailed the admission of refugees into this country, despite the fact that refugees are among the most carefully screened people admitted into our country.
     
  • Many consular and INS officials appear to be finding excuses to deny as many applications as they can. These officials are using flimsy reasons to deny applications to qualified individuals in a wide range of areas, including citizenship, family unification, international studies and employment.

As we move forward, we must do so as a nation united. Sadly, the policies mentioned above have split us apart, just as we need to pull together. These policies are engendering an atmosphere of fear within immigrant communities, and an atmosphere of distrust and hostility toward those born abroad. Rather than isolating terrorists, these policies are isolating newcomers.

We call on you, President Bush, to change these policies so that, as a nation of immigrants, we will protect and enhance our values, freedoms, and traditions while making our country more secure.


Sincerely,

National Organizations

ACORN, Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now
American Civil Liberties Union
American Friends Service Committee
American Immigration Lawyers Association
Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance, AFL-CIO
Association for Residency and Citizenship of America (ARCA)
Coalition of Hispanic American Citizens
Farmworker Justice Fund, Inc.
Hmong National Development, Inc.
Immigration and Refugee Services of America/U.S. Committee for Refugees
Japanese American Citizens League
Justice For Detainees
Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service
Mennonite Central Committee, U.S.
Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF)
National Asian Pacific American Legal Consortium
National Campaign for Jobs and Income Support
National Coalition for Asian Pacific American Community Development
National Coalition for Haitian Rights
National Council of La Raza
National Employment Law Project
National Immigration Forum
National Immigration Law Center
National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild
Presbyterian Church, USA, Washington Office
Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund
Salvadoran American National Network
Sikh Mediawatch and Resource Task Force (SMART)
Southeast Asia Resource Action Center
Union of Needletrade Industrial and Textile Employees (UNITE)


Local Organizations

African Community Center, Denver, Colorado
African Mutual Assistance Association of Missouri, St. Louis, Missouri
All Saints' Episcopal Church, Atlanta, Georgia
Asian American Community Service Association, Inc., Tulsa, Oklahoma
Asian Law Alliance, San Jose, California
Asian Pacific American Legal Center of Southern California, Los Angeles, California
Association of Haitian Women, Dorchester, Massachusetts
Boston University School of Social Work, Refugee and Immigrant Training Program, Boston, Massachusetts
Brazilian Women's Group, Somerville, Massachusetts
Bridge Refugee & Sponsorship Services, Inc., Chattanooga, Tennessee
Catholic Agency for Migration and Refugee Services, Garden City, Kansas
Catholic Charities Archdiocese of New Orleans, New Orleans, Louisiana
Catholic Charities, Diocese of Salina, Kansas
Catholic Charities, Diocese of Santa Rosa, California
Catholic Charities Immigration Clinic, Jackson, Mississippi
Catholic Charities, Immigration Counseling Services, Dallas, Texas
Catholic Charities Immigration Legal Services, Baltimore, Maryland
Catholic Charities Immigration Legal Services of San Jose, California
Catholic Charities Immigration Legal Services, Washington, D.C.
Catholic Charities Legal Services, Archdiocese of Miami, Miami, Florida
Catholic Charities Migration and Refugee Services, Hartford, Connecticut
Catholic Charities of Corpus Christi, Corpus Christi, Texas
Catholic Charities of Idaho, Boise, Idaho
Catholic Charities of Louisville, Louisville, Kentucky
Catholic Charities of Orange County, Santa Ana, California
Catholic Charities of Santa Clara County, San Jose, California
Catholic Charities, Springfield, Office of Social Concern, Springfield, Massachusetts
Catholic Charities of St. Petersburg, Immigration Program, St. Petersburg Florida
Catholic Charities of Tennessee, Inc., Nashville, Tennessee
Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, Minneapolis, Minnesota
Catholic Community Services of Baton Rouge, Baton Rouge, Louisiana
Catholic Community Services, Refugee Resettlement and Immigration Assistance Programs, Newark, New Jersey
Catholic Diocese of Jackson, Office of Hispanic Ministry, Jackson, Mississippi
Catholic Diocese of Richmond, Refugee and Immigration Services, Richmond, Virginia
Catholic Diocese of Salt Lake, Peace & Justice Commission, Salt Lake City, Utah
Catholic Immigration Services, Springdale, Arkansas
Catholic Social Service of Phoenix, Immigration Program, Phoenix, Arizona
Catholic Social Services, Refugee Resettlement Program, Mobile, Alabama
Central American Resource Center-Los Angeles, Los Angeles, California
Center for Battered Women´s Legal Services, New York, New York
Centro Presente, Inc., Cambridge, Massachusetts
Centro Salvadoreno, Hempstead, New York
Chhaya CDC, Queens, New York
Chinese American Citizens Alliance, Houston, Texas
CHIRLA, the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles, Los Angeles, California
The Christian Council of Metropolitan Atlanta, Inc., Atlanta, Georgia
Civil Liberties Task Force of the American Civil Liberties Union of
Massachusetts, Boston, Massachusetts
Coalition of Hispanic American Citizens, Anaheim, California
Committee on Laws Relating to Immigration and Nationality, Austin, Texas
The Cooperative Feeding Program, Ft. Lauderdale, Florida
CWS/EMM InterReligious Council Sub Office, Binghamton, New York
The D.C. Employment Justice Center, Washington, D.C.
DeKalb Rape Crisis Center, Multicultural Outreach Program, Decatur, Georgia
Detroit Province of the Jesuits, Social Ministry Office, Detroit, Michigan
Diocese of Kalamazoo Immigration Assistance Program, Kalamazoo, Michigan
East Boston Ecumenical Community Council, Boston, Massachusetts
Eirene Immigration Center, New Jersey
El Rescate Legal Services, Los Angeles, California
Episcopal Hispanic Ministry, Washington, North Carolina
Esperanza Community Housing Corps, Los Angeles, California
Everett Memorial United Methodist Church, Memphis, Tennessee
The 15th Street Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends, New York, New York
Florida Immigrant Advocacy Center, Miami, Florida
Foreign Born Information and Referral Network, (FIRN), Columbia, Maryland
Greater New York Labor-Religion Coalition, New York, New York
HACOS of Atlanta (Haitian Community Service Center Of Atlanta), Decatur, Georgia
Haitian-American Grassroots Coalition, Miami, Florida
Hate Free Zone Campaign of Washington, Seattle, Washington
Heartland Alliance for Human Needs & Human Rights, Chicago, Illinois
Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society of Chicago (HIAS Chicago), Chicago, Illinois
Hispanic Apostolate/Immigration Legal Services, Joseph Center,
Baltimore, Maryland
Hispanic Catholics of Northern Louisiana, Shreveport, Louisiana
Hispanic Office of Legal Assistance of Hilton Head, South Carolina
Holy Cross Catholic Church/Hispanic Ministry, Kernersville, North Carolina
Hotel Employees & Restaurant Employees International Union, Minneapolis, Minnesota
Idaho Community Action Network, Boise and Burley, Idaho
Idaho Office for Refugees, Boise, Idaho
Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, Chicago Illinois
Immigrant and Refugee Rights Project, Washington Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs, Washington, D.C.
Immigrant Defense Project, New York State Defenders Association, New York, New York
Immigrant Legal Advocacy Project (Maine), Portland, Maine
Immigrant Legal Resource Center (ILCR), San Francisco, California
Immigrant Rights Network of Iowa-Nebraska, Omaha, Nebraska
Immigrants' Assistance Center, Inc., New Bedford, Massachusetts
Institute for Cultural Partnerships, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania
InterChurch Refugee and Immigration Ministries (IRIM/Illinois). Chicago, Illinois
Intercommunity Center for Justice and Peace, New York, New York
Interfaith Refugee Ministry, New Bern, North Carolina
The International Center of the Capital Region, Inc., Albany, New York
International Institute of Akron, Ohio
International Institute of Boston, Boston, Massachusetts
International Institute of New Jersey, Jersey City, New Jersey
The International Institute of San Francisco, San Francisco, California
International Institute of St. Louis, St. Louis, Missouri
Iraqi House in Nashville, Tennessee
Irish Immigration Center, Boston, Massachusetts
The Irish Immigration & Pastoral Center of Philadelphia, Upper Darby, Pennsylvania
Irish Immigration Pastoral Center, San Francisco, CA
Jewish Community Action, St. Paul, Minnesota
Jews for Racial & Economic Justice (JFREJ), New York, New York
Justice For Detainees, Brooklyn, New York
La Fuerza Unida, Inc. Glen Cove, New York
Labor Council for Latin American Advancement, Massachusetts Chapter, Brighton, Massachusetts
Lutheran Social Service, Minneapolis, Minnesota
Make the Road by Walking, Brooklyn, New York
Massachusetts Alliance of Portuguese Speakers (MAPS), Cambridge, Massachusetts
Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition(MIRA Coalition), Boston, Massachusetts
Maui Economic Opportunity, Inc., Maui, Hawaii
Maxwell Street Legal Clinic, Lexington, Kentucky
Meto Office of Urban Ministries (UMC), Memphis, Tennessee
Mexican American Bar Association of Los Angeles County, Los Angeles, California
Michigan Migrant Legal Assistance Project, Inc. Grand Rapids, Michigan
Migrant & Refugee Outreach Committee of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Atlanta, Atlanta, Georgia
The Missouri Association for Social Welfare, Jefferson City, Missouri
Mohawk Valley Resource Center for Refugees, Inc., Utica, New York
Montana People's Action, Bozeman, Billings, and Missoula, Montana
Nationalities Service Center of Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Nebraska Appleseed Center for Law in the Public Interest, Lincoln, Nebraska
New Jersey Immigration Policy Network, Newark, New Jersey
The New York Immigration Coalition, New York, New York
The Northwest Federation of Community Organizations
Notre Dame Immigration Clinic, South Bend, Indiana
Oregon Action, Portland and Medford, Oregon
Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church, Brooklyn, New York
Pacific Gateway Center, Honolulu, Hawaii
Peace and Justice Committee of Benedictine Sisters of Cullman, Alabama
Political Asylum/Immigration Representation Project, Boston, Massachusetts
Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada, Reno, Nevada
Refugee & Immigration Services, Roanoke, Virginia
Sacramento Refugee Ministry, Sacramento California
Saint Anselm's Cross Cultural Community Center, Los Angeles, California
St. Julie Asian Center, Lowell, Massachusetts
Services, Immigrant Rights & Education Network, San Jose, California
Social Action Committee of the Park Slope United Methodist Church
Society of Jesus, New York Province, New York, New York
South Asian Network (SAN), Los Angeles, California
Southeast Asian Community Center, San Jose, California
Springfield Catholic Charities, Office of Social Concern, Springfield, Massachusetts
Sunflower Community Action, Wichita, Kansas
Tahirih Justice Center, Falls Church, Virginia
TB/Refugee Health Program, Carson City, NV
Texas Council on Family Violence, Austin, Texas
This African Community Resource Center, Inc. Los Angeles, California
United Methodist Resources for Ministry, Inc., Memphis, Tennessee
Vermont Refugee Resettlement Program, Colchester, Vermont
Vietnamese Center for Culture & Education, St. Louis, Missouri
Washington Citizen Action, Seattle and Tacoma, Washington
Young Korean-American Service & Education Center, Inc. (YKASEC), Flushing, New York

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