Singing Loudly: Senseless Bill

Singing Loudly

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Senseless Bill

Hundreds of thousands of people in Chicago protested against the Sensenbrenner Bill that was passed in the House of Representatives last fall. That bill is currently being debated in Senate. I've stated before that this year will have one of the most contested show downs on immigration reform our country has seen. This bill makes it certain that things will turn ugly. Here are a few of the things this bill does which erodes our civil liberties:

HR 4437 criminalizes organizations and individuals assisting undocumented immigrants The bill expands the definitino of alien smuggling to such a degree that many immigration attorneys will be unable to assist immigrants in their struggle to become legal residents. It also makes the good work of groups like Catholic Charities, the Human Rights Initiative, Legal Aid, and thousands of other non-profit organizations illegal.

HR 4437 criminalizes undocumented immigration status Currently it is a civil violation to be in the United States without legal status. HR 4437 would create a new federal crime of “unlawful presence” and would define immigration violations so broadly as to effectively include every violation, however minor, technical or unintentional, as a federal crime. This would make the millions of children here without family illegal (undocumented children that can currently be assisted through SIJS status to become legal), it would make the thousands of women who are promised status by abusive and controlling American citizen men illegal once the female finally realizes that VAWA can help assist her with her status and she no longer has to stay in a physically and mentally abusive situation. It would also make it so that families would be permanently separated.

HR 4437 grants state and local law enforcement agencies “inherent authority” to enforce immigration laws When police act as immigration enforcement agents, it undermines their ability to keep communities safe because immigrants and their family members will be scared to report crimes, fires, and suspicious activity out of fear of exposing themselves, families or neighbors to police.

HR 4437 furthers the erosion of due process Under HR 4377, noncitizens would be required to waive all rights to any further motion, appeals or petition for review related to removal or protection from removal in order to be granted voluntary departure, essentially barring them from a list with their family in the United States. It would also make it so that those noncitizens with prior deport orders would have no right to any hearing.

HR 4437 expands the costly detention of immigrants It is clear that our prisons are already overfilled with drug offenders and other minor criminals. Why must we continue to fill them with people whose only criminal wrongdoing is trying to be in the United States?

HR 4437 guts the federal courts’ authority to review immigration matters

HR 4437 turns many minor crimes into aggravated felonies, which carry the worst possible immigration consequences Misdemeanor drunk driving offenses, mere presence in the United States without documentation, assisting an undocumented immigrant to reside in the United States, and minor accessory roles in the criminal conduct of others would all qualify as aggravated felonies. Most of these changes would be retroactive, meaning that someone who committed an offense 20 years ago that was not a deportable offense then could be charged with an aggravated felony now.

HR 4437 expands the consequences of an aggravated felony and other offenses Basically, the noncitizen would never be able to show that he is a person of good moral character (a requirement to naturalize) if he was ever considered an aggravated felon.

The bill adds other things and changes the immigration act in other important ways. However, this overview is enough to show why it is so important that people protest these particular changes to the our law. We need a sensible overhaul of the immigration act. A change that will include both enforcement provisions and a guest worker program.


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