Cite as "AILA InfoNet Doc. No. 03042540 (posted Apr. 25, 2003)"
American Immigration Lawyers Association
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Judith Golub
April 24, 2003
IS THERE RULE OF LAW IN IMMIGRATION?
AG Decision Also Leads Legal Experts to Question ‘National Security’
Rationale and Authority of the Attorney General
Washington D.C. – The American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA)
strongly criticizes and condemns the Justice Department’s precedent decision
that would adversely affect persons of all nationalities seeking bond.
“Decisions about whether people seeking asylum should be detained or not should
be made on an individual basis, and the decisions of an immigration judge and
the Bureau of Immigration Appeals (BIA) should be respected,” said Jeanne
Butterfield, Executive Director of AILA.
“Through this broad decision, the Attorney General uses vague and indefinable
criteria and essentially attempts to enact law through administrative fiat,”
said Ms. Butterfield. “The rule of law sets our nation apart from others. Laws
come about through Congress passing a bill that the President signs, not through
the unilateral actions of the Attorney General,” continued Ms. Butterfield.
In a recently released decision, U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft ordered
the government to vacate a bond ruling set by the Board of Immigration
Appeals. The Attorney General’s decision overrides the decision of both
the immigration judge and the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA), and has
serious consequences for all detained undocumented immigrants, not only the
individual in whose case the Attorney General intervened. The case
involves an 18-year-old Haitian refugee who sought refuge in Florida along with
200 others. Most of these people have been detained since their arrival Oct.
29. In November 2002, an immigration judge found that the Haitian refugee
was eligible to be released on bond.
In his decision, Attorney General Ashcroft stated that there is “a national
security concern” raised in this case. “Unfortunately, the Attorney General has
hijacked the concern we all share about enhancing our national security, and
appears to be using national security as a cover for this ill-conceived decision
that creates a bad precedent,” said Ms. Butterfield. “This decision
does a disservice to our security concerns by wasting precious resources. We
need to focus our attention and resources on actions that truly make us safer,”
continued Ms. Butterfield.
Along with concerns about the Attorney General usurping such blanket and
broad authority and using the cover of national security concerns, this decision
also raises the question as to which federal agency is in charge of immigration:
the newly created Department of Homeland Security or the Department of
Justice? “This decision raises grave concerns about whether one federal
agency is in charge of immigration,” said Ms. Butterfield, “and which agency
that would be. Effective, efficient, and fair immigration policy that
helps make us safer needs to have a clear source of authority. This
decision makes it difficult to determine who is in charge of our immigration
policy,” continued Ms. Butterfield. “Why did the Department of Homeland Security
ask the Attorney General to issue this decision? Furthermore, does the
Attorney General even have the authority to issue such a decision,” questioned
“We are a nation of immigrants and a nation of laws. Sadly, this decision
calls into question how we make our laws and how we must develop and implement
policies and laws that truly make us safer. This decision also follows
many actions taken by the Administration that have made immigrants feel besieged
and have not enhanced our security,” concluded Ms. Butterfield.
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Founded in 1946, AILA is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization that
provides its Members with continuing legal education, information, and
professional services. AILA advocates before Congress and the Administration and
provides liaison with the INS and other government agencies. AILA is an
Affiliated Organization of the American Bar Association.
American Immigration Lawyers Association
918 F Street NW,
Washington, DC, 20009
Phone (202) 216-2400; Fax (202) 783-7853