Blog & Updates
Positive measures in the House and Senate
October 15, 2008 - Posted by Maurice Belanger
The scandal that developed regarding medical care for immigrant detainees in detention prompted Immigration Subcommittee Chair Zoe Lofgren to introduce the Detainee Basic Medical Care Act, H.R. 5950, which directs the Secretary of Homeland Security to establish procedures for the delivery of medical and mental health care to immigration detainees, and specifies what the procedures include.
H.R. 5882, a bill to re-capture visas allocated by law in previous years but unused due to bureaucratic inefficiencies, passed the Immigration Subcommittee and made it to the schedule of the full Judiciary Committee. That Committee ran out of time, although it did manage to mark up the Prevention of Equine Cruelty Act in the same meeting. (On a positive note, immigrants were not being blamed for equine cruelty.) Business interests and advocates for more family visas worked together on this proposal to re-gain lost business and family visas.
One bill that did get through the Judiciary Committee was H.R. 6020, aimed at immigrant soldiers and their families. The bill would streamline naturalization procedures, simplify procedures for family members to become permanent residents, and protect some family members from deportation. Even this narrow bill aimed at providing benefits for immigrants who are putting their lives on the line for the U.S. was attacked by restrictionist members of the Judiciary Committee. Steve King (R-IA) and Lamar Smith (R-TX), in particular, offered amendment after amendment to make the bill much more restrictive. (See the Forum’s press release here.)
On the last day of the session, Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard introduced H.R. 7255, the Immigration Oversight and Fairness Act. This bill is aimed at reining in some of the abuses of immigrants jailed by the Department of Homeland Security and its subcontractors. It would improve ICE’s detention standards by legislating some of them and subjecting others to formal rulemaking. (The standards do not currently exist in legislation or regulation.) It would also expand alternatives to detention and provide for better treatment for unaccompanied minors.
Senators Menendez and Kennedy also introduced a bill to reign in some of ICE’s abuses during raids and in detention that have come to light in the press and in Congressional hearings. S. 3594, the Protect Citizens and Residents from Unlawful Raids and Detention Act, would offer protections against unlawful detention of U.S. citizens and permanent residents; place a number of requirements on ICE in carrying out immigration raids; place restraints on ICE regarding the removal of immigrants caught in a raid at sites where there is a labor dispute or violations of labor law; offer protections for certain vulnerable individuals caught in a raid; and create an ICE Ombudsman office.
Senator Menendez is emerging as a leader on the issue of immigration. In mid-September, he introduced S. 3514, the Reuniting Families Act, which would have (among other things): re-captured lost visas (see above); re-classified the spouses and children of permanent residents as immediate relatives; raised per-country ceilings on immigrant visas; and made it easier to obtain certain waivers.