Senate Rejects Graham Immigration Enforcement Amendment

On 7/25/07, thanks in part to the swift action of AILA advocates, the Senate rejected a harsh immigration enforcement amendment proposed by Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) to the Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Act (S. 1644/H.R. 2638).

The Graham amendment proposed a broad array of costly, counterproductive, and pernicious provisions. If passed, the amendment would have:

• increased state and local enforcement of federal immigration laws;

• expanded expedited removal and further restricted the right of immigrants, including longtime legal permanent residents, to administrative or judicial review;

• subjected visa overstayers to mandatory detention, raising serious cost and constitutional concerns;

• expanded criminal penalties for immigration violations, including harsh and costly mandatory minimum sentences;

• allowed the government to deny naturalization based on secret evidence and erect other barriers to naturalization;

• allowed the government to indefinitely detain immigrants who cannot be returned to their home countries through no fault of their own; and,

• undermined community policing efforts by outlawing policies that prevent law enforcement officers from inquiring about immigration status.

Fortunately, Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) raised a point of order challenging the germaneness of the amendment. Chair Barak Obama (D-IL) ruled that the amendment was not germane, and the Senate upheld his decision in a 52-44 vote. After the amendment’s defeat, however, Senator Reid proposed that the Senate reconsider the border security funding portion of Senator Graham's amendment under a unanimous consent agreement. The details of this proposed border security funding amendment are not yet clear, but could include funding for tens of thousands of additional detention beds and border agents, and billions of dollars for enforcement.

Senator Reid also had offered a “side-by-side” amendment in response to Senator Graham’s amendment that coupled enhanced border security funding with DREAM Act and AgJOBS provisions. However, the germaneness ruling that halted the Graham amendment precluded any further action on Senator Reid’s amendment as well.

Cite as AILA Doc. No. 07072540.