House and Senate Conferees Meet on 9/11 Legislation

American Immigration Lawyers Association

October 20, 2004

Contact: Judith Golub
Julia Hendrix

House and Senate Conferees Meet on 9/11 Legislation AILA Urges Conferees to Ensure that Enhanced Security, not Restrictionist Agenda, Prevails White House Needs to Move Off of Restrictionist, Anti-Immigrant Agenda

Washington, DC - The Senate and House conferees held their first official meeting today to attempt to resolve differences between intelligence reform legislation passed by the House (H.R. 10) and the Senate (S. 2845). These two bills could not differ more. S. 2845 is responsible, bipartisan legislation endorsed by the 9/11 Commission and the Steering Committee of 9-11 Families-the families of victims of the terrorist attacks.

In contrast, the array of anti-immigrant and anti-civil liberties provisions included in the partisan H.R. 10 go well beyond the 9/11 Commission's recommendations and will not make us safer. In an October 20 letter to Senator Susan Collins and Representative Peter Hoekstra, Commission Chair Thomas Kean and Vice-Chair Lee Hamilton noted their strong belief that this bill:

is not the right occasion for tackling controversial immigration and law enforcement issues that go well beyond the Commission's recommendations. We note in this regard that some of these provisions have been advocated in response to Commission recommendations. They are not Commission recommendations….We believe that we are better off with broad bipartisan agreement on key recommendations of the Commission in support of border security than taking up a number of controversial provisions that are more central to the question of immigration policy than they are to the question of counterterrorism.

These anti-immigrant and anti-civil liberties provisions threaten to make us less safe. The above comments from the 9-11 Commissioners underscore their concerns with these provisions. Indeed, they petitioned House Republican leadership to delete these troubling provisions from the bill after it was first introduced. These controversial measures include: (1) a broad expansion of expedited removal, (2) heightened burdens for asylum eligibility, (3) a prohibition on acceptance of consular identification cards, (4) restrictions on driver's license issuance to noncitizens based on immigration status, (5) elimination of habeas review for a variety of administrative orders, (6) new mandatory detention provisions, (7) elimination of temporary stays of removal pending judicial review, (8) authorization to remove individuals to countries without functioning governments, (9) guilt by association as a basis for deportation, and (10) prohibition on review of the basis for certain deportation orders.

Unfortunately, the White House is not providing the necessary leadership to oppose these harmful, anti-immigrant and anti-civil liberties provisions. An October 18 White House letter signaled the Administration's support for a wide range of ill-conceived measures included in H.R. 10 such as: visa revocation and deportation without any administrative or judicial review; the suspension for the first time since the Civil War of the "Great Writ" of habeas corpus; severely limiting the power of the courts to review detention and deportation, including claims that a detainee will be tortured if returned; and removing noncitizens to countries that will not accept them, and countries to which the noncitizen has no connection whatsoever. Most of these provisions and others the White House does not specifically address, but would appear to support, have not yet received hearings before any congressional committee and violate agreements made during negotiations over the PATRIOT Act.

The White House needs to stand on the side of enhancing this nation's security and reject radical, restrictionist, anti-immigrant, and anti-civil liberties measures that will make us less secure. The White House is not there now.

We have come to a fork in the road. Congress, especially House and Senate conferees, and the White House have a choice: They can reject the onerous restrictions in H.R. 10 and produce a bipartisan measure behind which this nation can unite, or they can cave into pressure by extremists and pass an ill-conceived measure that will divide our nation, make us less safe, divert resources, make immigrant communities feel besieged, and make our immigration processes even more dysfunctional than they are today. We urge them to make the right choice.

Senate Conferees: Senators Susan Collins (R-ME), Pat Roberts (R-KS), Trent Lott (R-MS), George Voinovich (R-OH), Mike DeWine (R-OH), Norm Coleman (R-MI), John Sununu (R-NH), Joseph Lieberman (D-CT), Carl Levin (D-MI), Richard Durbin (D-IL), John Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), Bob Graham (D-FL), Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ).

House Conferees: Representatives Peter Hoekstra (R-MI), Duncan Hunter (R-CA), Henry Hyde (R-IL), James Sensenbrenner (R- WI), David Dreier (R-CA), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Jane Harman (D-CA), Ike Skelton (D-MO).

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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 DHS and other government agencies. AILA is an Affiliated Organization of the American Bar Association.

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Cite as AILA Doc. No. 04102160.