ACLU Enthusiastically Endorses Measure to Restore Fairness to Immigration Law
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
WASHINGTON — The United States is a nation of laws, and our government is charged with guaranteeing that these laws are administered with impartiality and fairness.
To ensure impartiality and fairness, we are also a nation that provides for court review of government decisions. In our system of checks and balances, judicial review is an essential tool for preserving liberty. But anti-terrorism and immigration laws passed in 1996 eliminate that guarantee for many immigrants to this country.
The American Civil Liberties Union is therefore happy to join with a vast array of civil rights, religious, ethnic and labor organizations in endorsing the “Immigrant Fairness Restoration Act of 2000,” introduced today by Senators Ted Kennedy (D-MA) and Bob Graham (D-FL).
The bill would enhance judicial review of immigration decisions on such matters as deportation, asylum eligibility and detention. It would restore the pre-1996 law granting immigration officials authority to release immigrants who do not pose a danger to society and who are likely to appear for future proceedings. The bill would also prevent indefinite detention of non-citizens whom the Immigration and Naturalization Service is unable to remove. Currently, the government claims the authority to detain non-citizens indefinitely, after they have already served criminal sentences. Finally, the bill would help correct a number of other problems, including retroactive application use of immigration laws.
Immigration decisions are life-altering and must be undertaken with great care. Deportation or detention can separate a person from her family and from all that makes life worth living. Mandatory and indefinite detention are perhaps the most flagrant, unfair deprivations of liberty possible.
When such a substantial liberty interest is at stake, the Constitution demands that adequate protection – or due process – is provided to ensure that such decisions are correct and fair. Judicial review of the decisions of immigration officials provides this essential due process protection. Time is short. Congress should adopt this legislation now to provide due process and ensure fairness for all on American soil.
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The American Civil Liberties Union is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in this country by the Constitution and laws of the United States of America.
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The fundamental constitutional protections of due process and equal protection embodied in our Constitution and Bill of Rights apply to every person, regardless of immigration status.