AILA: It is Time to Restore Due Process and Civil Liberties

American Immigration Lawyers Association
June 16, 2004
Contact: Julia Hendrix
(202) 216-2404

Statement of the American Immigration Lawyers Association upon introduction of The Civil Liberties Restoration Act of 2004

Since September 11, immigrants have been subjected to policies that debase our country's fundamental commitment to individual liberties and due process. These policies, including detentions for months without charges, secret hearings, and ethnic profiling, signal a sea of change in our government's policies and attitudes towards immigrants. With today's introduction of the Civil Liberties Restoration Act of 2004 (CLRA), Senators Kennedy (D-MA), Leahy (D-VT), Durbin (D-IL), Feingold (D-WI), and Corzine (D-NJ) and Representatives Berman (D-CA) and Delahunt (D-MA) take a giant step towards redressing these abuses and reining in executive branch overreaching.

We are a nation of immigrants with a long, rich tradition of welcoming newcomers. Government policies that unfairly and inappropriately confuse immigration with terrorism do not make us safer, tarnish our heritage, and damage our standing abroad. We commend the leadership exhibited by the bill's sponsors and encourage Members from both sides of the aisle to support this legislation and the principles of fairness and justice that are at its core.

While the Administration defends its post-9/11 policies on the grounds of national security, security experts, government auditors and community leaders have concluded that many of the government's policies actually undermine our security, while eroding fundamental civil liberties. Measures that make people suspect because of their ethnicity or religion, rather than suspicious activity, alienate immigrant communities, divert valuable resources from finding real terrorists, and ignore this nation's commitment to freedom from heavy-handed government tactics. Hidden under a veil of secrecy, many of the government's post-September 11 policies have compromised the rights of affected persons to receive impartial, timely, and individualized consideration of their cases.

In fact, the Department of Justice's (DOJ) own Inspector General issued a scathing report, identifying "significant problems" and questions of "legality" related to the detention policies the DOJ implemented during post-9/11 investigations. Many immigrants detained in the post-9/11 sweep were denied access to attorneys and family members, and were held for months without being charged. And, in a number of cases, government guards physically and mentally abused them.

The Civil Liberties Restoration Act will roll back, in a targeted and responsible manner, the excesses of the government's response to the threat of terrorism. For example, the Act prohibits blanket closures of immigration hearings, but authorizes partial or full closure of individual cases when necessary to protect national security. It requires that individuals who are detained be served with notice of the charges against them in a timely fashion and be brought before an immigration judge. It mandates that all individuals be accorded an individualized bond hearing. These and the other measures in the bill simply seek to ensure that immigrants are treated with the fairness and respect that our Constitution requires.

The Civil Liberties Restoration Act is balanced legislation which seeks to restore critical protections and fundamental freedoms without compromising our nation's safety. Immigrant communities feel besieged and betrayed by many of government's post-9/11 policies. The United States drew these immigrants to its shores with the promise of freedom and liberty, but that promise has been broken. The Civil Liberties Restoration Act attempts to make good on that promise and merits becoming law.

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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 Department of Homeland Security and other government agencies. AILA is an Affiliated Organization of the American Bar Association.

American Immigration Lawyers Association
918 F Street NW, Washington, DC, 20004-1400
Phone (202) 216-2400; Fax (202) 783-7853

Cite as AILA Doc. No. 04061667.