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Question: I have heard a lot is happening in Congress about various immigration bills relating to the rights of immigrants. Can you give us an update of what types of bills are currently in Congress and what may have recently passed?

Answer: In a significant victory, House members defeated an amendment proposed that sought to prohibit the use of funds to provide assistance to any state or local government entity or official that prohibits or restricts the sharing of an individual’s citizenship or immigration status with the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

The Civil Liberties Restoration Act of 2004 introduced in House and Senate Legislation introduced on June 8 would address policies implemented since September 11 that have debased our country’s fundamental commitment to individual liberties and due process. These policies, including detentions for months without charges, secret hearings, and ethnic profiling, signal a sea change in our government’s policies and attitudes towards immigrants.

With the introduction of the Civil Liberties Restoration Act of 2004 (CLRA) take a giant step towards redressing these abuses and reining in executive branch overreaching.

The Civil Liberties Restoration Act would roll back, in a targeted and responsible manner, the excesses of the government’s response to the threat of terrorism.

The bill includes the following provisions that seek to ensure that immigrants are treated with the fairness and respect that our Constitution requires:

End Secret Hearings. The CLRA would end the government’s ability to issue a blanket order closing all deportation hearings to the public and to family members of detainees, while permitting the closure of hearings or a portion of hearings on a case-by-case basis to preserve the confidentiality of asylum applications or when national security interests so require.

 Ensure Due Process for Detained Individuals. The CLRA would provide minimum due process safeguards to individuals who are jailed on suspicion of immigration violations by giving them timely notice of the charges against them and assure that immigration authorities and judges make fair, individualized bond determinations.

Establish Independent Immigration Court. The CLRA would establish an independent immigration court within the Department of Justice and promote fair hearings by a competent, independent and impartial tribunal.

End Special Registration. The CLRA would terminate the troubled National Security Entry-Exit Registration System while encouraging fairness and a concentrated focus on those who pose a threat to the national security or safety of Americans.

Make Penalties Commensurate with Violations. The CLRA would assign reasonable penalties, commensurate with the technical nature of the violations, for noncitizens’ failure to register or provide timely notification of address changes.

 Require Accurate Criminal Databases. The CLRA would facilitate better law enforcement practices by requiring that the National Crime Information Center database relied upon daily by state and local law enforcement comply with minimum accuracy requirements.

 Ensure Access to Evidence. The CLRA would ensure that people who are charged with a crime based upon national security surveillance under the Patriot Act would see the evidence against them in the same manner as people charged with a crime based upon other kinds of classified information.

 Mandate Reports on Data-Mining. The CLRA would require the government to submit a public report to Congress on data-mining activities in order to protect the privacy and due process rights of individuals and to ensure accurate information is collected and used.

In a Supreme Court case as of yesterday, they basically stated that war is not a blank check for the President to just hold people in detention. They must be afforded various rights. Hopefully, this bill will pass in some fashion to give back fairness and rights that have been slowly taken away from the immigrants.

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What’s happening in Immigration?