AILA Press Release on H.R. 2121

Tuesday, May 23, 2000
CONTACT: Matt Tallmer, Public Affairs Manager
202-216-2404;    Fax: 202-371-9449

Immigration Lawyers Urge Congress
Revoke Use of Secret Evidence

WASHINGTON – The American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) today urged Congress to approve H.R. 2121, a bill introduced by Representatives David Bonior (D-MI), Tom Campbell (R-CA) and Bob Barr (R-GA), which would ban the use of secret evidence during INS proceedings.

Provisions of two overly harsh 1996 laws allow the Immigration and Naturalization Service to use secret evidence to deport permanent residents, deny bond to any detained immigrant and deny asylum and other immigration benefits to people. In addition, those same overly harsh laws created a new Star Chamber court that only hears deportation cases based on secret evidence. As if that were not un-American enough, the INS is now using secret evidence to deny immigrants mandatory relief from deportation.

H.R. 2121, which has been endorsed by a bi-partisan coalition of lawmakers from across the political spectrum, would not let secret evidence be used in deportation cases, bond hearings, immigration benefit cases and asylum proceedings. The government could still prosecute and punish terrorists, as it did in the horrible bombings of the World Trade Center and the Federal Building in Oklahoma City, and in the current case against a man accused of bringing explosive devices into our country late last year.

“The United States has long stood as a beacon of hope for the oppressed across the world because of our legal principles. These principles have been enshrined in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. Key among them is that people accused of crimes have the right to see the evidence against them, have a chance to confront their accusers face-to-face, and interrogate witnesses. The secret evidence provisions of the overly harsh 1996 laws violate these key principles. They are un-American,” said Jeanne Butterfield, AILA’s Executive Director.

“Every federal court that has ruled on the use of secret evidence agrees that these provisions are unconstitutional. Former CIA Director James Woolsey has said the use of secret evidence is something that you would expect to find in Iraq. Mr. Woolsey is right: totalitarian and oppressive states use secret evidence against people. Democratic countries like the United States should not. We call upon Congress to restore American principles and American jurisprudence to our immigration laws.”



Cite as AILA Doc. No. 00052303.