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AILA on INS Failures

Cite as "AILA InfoNet Doc. No. 99021257 (posted Feb. 12, 1999)"

STATEMENT OF AMERICAN IMMIGRATION LAWYERS ASSOCIATION
EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR JEANNE BUTTERFIELD
IN REPONSE TO REP. LAMAR SMITH AND REP. ELTON GALLEGLY
LETTER TO ATTORNEY GENERAL JANET RENO CITING "INS POLICY FAILURE TO PROTECT PUBLIC SAFETY"

"Representatives Lamar Smith and Elton Gallegly today attacked INS policy for ‘failing to protect public safety’ after the agency announced its plans to release from detention certain immigrants who pose no danger to public safety. In fact, it is the recently passed current law these two Representatives spearheaded through Congress in 1996 that is at fault.

"By demagoguing the issue and raising fears about public safety, Representatives Smith and Gallegly conveniently sidestep the fact that it was Congress that failed to enact a rational detention policy that would allow the INS to detain the most serious criminal offenders. It was Congress that took away INS’ discretion to release to families and communities persons who pose no threat whatsoever—refugees awaiting their asylum hearings and persons with minor, nonviolent, victimless convictions who are awaiting their day in court to have their deportation cases heard. Thus, it is Congress that has disabled the INS by taking away from the agency its ability to detain and remove those persons who pose the greatest risk to our communities.

"Congress, by imposing a wildly irrational mandatory detention order as part ofits 1996 immigration law, guaranteed that INS would be set up for failure. The persons who currently fill the vast majority of limited INS detention beds are people with American families and part of American communities. They have every reason to appear in court and seek resolution of their immigration cases. They pose no threat to society, nor do they have any reason to abscond.

"Congress should cease pointing the finger at a beleaguered agency and take responsibility. Congress should enact a reasonable set of guidelines so that those who do not need to be detained are not incarcerated at the taxpayers expense, and so the public is truly protected."

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