ACLU Supports Common Sense Fixes in Border Security Bill, Suggests Changes to Protect Privacy, Law Enforcement

December 18, 2001 12:00 am

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WASHINGTON — The American Civil Liberties Union today said it supported many of the common sense fixes proposed in a major piece of pending border security legislation and suggested several revisions to the bill to protect privacy and law enforcement anti-terrorism efforts.

“This bill contains creative border security solutions that keep us both safe and free,” said Timothy Edgar, ACLU Legislative Counsel. “However, it does need some tweaking to protect Americans’ privacy rights and to prevent any hampering of law enforcement’s anti-terrorism efforts.”

Introduced by Sens. Ted Kennedy (D-MA) and Sam Brownback (R-KS), the bill (S 1749) is set for consideration on the Senate floor as early as today.

While much of the bill is non-objectionable to the ACLU, the organization did point to several significant flaws in the bill and urged the Senate to include minor language revisions before its consideration on the floor.

Some of these include:

  • The bill would require law enforcement agencies to share with the INS any information they come across about non-citizens’ immigration status. This provision has the potential to sap trust in law enforcement from immigrant communities who might hold information crucial to anti-terrorism efforts. The ACLU recommends that language be added to clarify that information about someone’s immigration status need not be given to the INS if it interferes with the law enforcement agency’s primary mission.
  • The bill contains language that has the potential to create the infrastructure for a national identification system. The ACLU recommends the legislation contain a provision that makes it clear that it does not authorize or permit the creation of a national ID.
  • A proposed perimeter security program could, if implemented without safeguards, weaken the ability of the world’s persecuted to seek asylum in the United States. The ACLU recommends that the bill include language stating affirmatively that the government must examine the impact of these measures on the access of refugees to the United States.
  • Some provisions for scrutinizing visa applicants are based on arbitrary criteria and could provide greater opportunity for punishing speech the government does not like, depriving American citizens of access to controversial views from abroad. The ACLU recommends these provisions be revised or deleted.

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