Wednesday, May 17, 2006

News on immigration amendments: "Good fences make good neighbors"

ACCEPTED: Senate Amendment SA. 3979, which repairs deteriorated fencing near Douglas, Nogales, Naco, Lukeville, Yuma, Somerton, and San Luis, Arizona; constructs vehicle barriers in the Tuscon and Yuma Sectors; and constructs "not less than 370 miles of triple-layered fencing which may include portions already constructed in San Diego, Tucson and Yuma Sectors." The location is to be where most smuggling and illegal entry occurs, as determined by the Secretary of Homeland Security. The required completion date is 2 years from enactment.

ACCEPTED: Senate Amendment SA.3965, Cornyn and Kyl, which states: "(A) In general: An alien is ineligible for adjustment to lawful permanent resident status under this section if: ... (iv) the alien has been convicted of a felony or 3 or more misdemeanors." This is new: I believe the previous rule that is being modified is: "Any alien who is convicted of an aggravated felony at any time after admission is deportable," 8 U.S.C. 1227(a)(2)(A)(iii). [I think S.2611 is rewriting this entire section; there's similar language in 8 U.S.C. 1251(a)(4).] The definition of "aggravated felony" was helpfully supplied as a "particularly serious crime." There was certainly a strong justification for excluding those who committed aggravated felonies. But so many things are plain felonies---keep in mind that this could be a state law felony---that this rule could easily catch a lot of (fairly) innocent little fishies. In Arizona, for example, the common law crime of false pretences, "obtaining credit by false pretences as to wealth and mercantile character," is still a felony.

REJECTED: SA. 3963, Vitter. This would have effectively torpedoed any Bush plan for an amnesty by denying the possibility of adjustment to LPR for those who have overstayed their visas by more than two years.

PENDING: SA. 4036, Lieberman. One of the new changes in S.2611 is to treat entering the US on a fraudulent passport (a crime under 8 U.S.C. 1325 and 1326) as a particularly serious crime; this makes it hard on those who had to flee persecution in their home country using false documents. Lieberman's proposed amendment would at least guarantee that those entering illegally and making asylum claims have a chance to get in front of an asylum officer to have their story heard. For asylum lawyers, this is a particularly important amendment to get passed.

PREVIOUSLY ACCEPTED: SA. 3994, Salazar. "To prohibit implementation of title IV and title VI until the President determines that implementation of such titles will strengthen the national security of the United States." That would just require Bush to get out his pen. Passed 5/16/2006.

PREVIOUSLY REJECTED: SA. 3961, "To prohibit the granting of legal status, or adjustment of current status, to any individual who enters or entered the United States in violation of Federal law unless the border security measures authorized under Title I and section 233 are fully completed and fully operational." This was effectively a poison pill. Rejected ("not agreed to") 5/16/2006.

ALSO PENDING: about 70 other amendments. See Thomas.

Even if you have strongly ambivalent feelings about this legislation, like I do, I encourage you to read up on it, and if you find something you think is important or horrific, to call your Senator. Read, for example, this summary of problematic provisions of the new bill, and ask to talk to your Senator's chief of staff.
If you live in Connecticut, and would like to support Lieberman in his amendment to help asylees who flee torture on false passports, his fax number is (too-zeero-too) 224-9750.

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