AILA Press Release on Introduction of Secret Evidence Repeal Legislation

Wednesday, March 28, 2001

Matt Tallmer,
Public Affairs Manager
202-216-2404;    Fax:

Immigration Lawyers Urge Congress to
Eliminate the Use of Secret Evidence

WASHINGTON – The American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) today urged Congress to speedily approve a bill introduced by Representatives David Bonior (D-MI), Bob Barr (R-GA), and Tom Davis (R-VA), that 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 asylum, and deny bond to detained immigrants.  This practice has resulted in immigrants being unable to defend themselves against charges they are unable to review.

The Bonior-Barr-Davis bill would require the INS to follow the same rules for using classified information that are used in the prosecution of criminals under Federal law. Under the new legislation, the Classified Information Procedures Act (CIPA) would be applied in deportation cases, bond hearings, immigration benefit cases and asylum proceedings.  These rules require an independent judge to create an unclassified summary of the classified information and provide the summary to the immigration judge and the accused immigrant. There would be no "secret evidence" because the immigration judge would base his or her decision on the same information that is shared with the immigrant. 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.

“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. Leading attorneys, including a former CIA Director, have said the use of secret evidence is something that you would expect to find in a repressive nation. They are 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. 01032959.