National Immigration Forum

Practical Solutions for Immigrants and America


Fate of Anti-Immigrant Legislation Appears to be Sealed

May 04, 2005

Washington, DC – According to news reports, the House/Senate conference committee meeting to reconcile supplemental appropriations legislation has come to agreement on the immigration-related provisions contained in the House version of the bill.  Some of the most egregious new barriers to refugees seeking asylum in the United States were slightly watered down, but the bulk of the new restrictions on immigrants and immigration were apparently retained and will become law, once the House and Senate each vote on the final conference committee report this week or next and the legislation is signed by the President.

The following is a statement by Angela Kelley, Deputy Director of the National Immigration Forum, a leading pro-immigrant advocacy organization in Washington, which has been generally supportive of the Administration’s call for comprehensive immigration reform.

We have been fighting this legislative package since last October because we think it is misguided, ineffective, and distracts the immigration debate from what we really need to be doing, which is fixing the broken system comprehensively. 

Three miles of border fence and a higher standard of proof for people seeking safety from religious persecution isn’t going to make us any safer and will do nothing to address the underlying dysfunctionality of our immigration and border security policies.

Despite the best efforts by a handful of senators on both sides of the aisle who stood up to House conferees on some of the most ridiculous provisions of the REAL ID Act, the Senate was unable, in the end, to gut the House-passed proposal. The White House’s inexcusable endorsement of this package was just the push it needed to be enacted. 

Removed were provisions that would have allowed people to be deported before they had completed the appeals process.  Also cut was a provision to set loose bounty hunters and bail bondsmen on immigrants, even those still in the process of appealing deportation rulings.  These modest changes are a small consolation for all immigrants who will face greater difficulties in getting their day in court.

The REAL ID Act still makes genuine asylum seekers more likely to be sent back to their tormentors, still imposes unfunded mandates on states related in reorganizing how driver’s licenses are issued, and still restricts immigrants’ access to the courts.  And most importantly, it still piles more ineffective and unworkable policies on top of an already broken and unworkable immigration system.

The American people want solutions that secure our borders, screen intending immigrants intelligently, and shrink the haystack of those hiding in shadows.  The REAL ID Act fails on all these accounts and is a distraction from real reform.

More than ever, comprehensive, bipartisan reform of our immigration laws is needed to move the immigration debate and our national security forward.  When comprehensive, bipartisan reform legislation is introduced and debated in Congress, President Bush and Congress will again have an opportunity to indicate whether they support common-sense reforms that enhance security or prefer political polarization that derails bipartisan solutions.

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