Groups Urge Congress to Restore Due Process, Fairness in Immigration System
WASHINGTON – The Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing today to expose our current immigration system’s disregard of due process and civil rights. Witnesses at the hearing, which was chaired by Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.), explained that the immigration detention system fails to uphold basic due process rights, and that the judicial system bars judges from using their judgment to determine whether an immigrant should be deported.
Attorneys and advocates who work with immigrants have long decried the country’s current detention and deportation system. Immigrants have been cut off from access to their lawyers and loved ones during lengthy detention, and judges have been forced to deport immigrants with U.S. citizen children for minor offenses.
“Immigrants’ cases work through the civil system, but there’s nothing civil about the way this country treats those who are fighting to remain with their families,” said Marielena Hincapié, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center. “By not providing immigrants with a fair day in court, and access to lawyers to help them present their cases, we’ve shattered too many families and communities. Congress should take advantage of this golden opportunity to create immigration laws that restore dignity by ending programs that encourage immigrants to sign away their rights and reinstating a judge’s right to determine what’s appropriate for the immigration cases she reviews."
Expert witnesses explained that current detention and deportation policies add tremendous expense to the federal budget; a fact highlighted earlier this year when the Migration Policy Institute demonstrated that the federal government spent more on federal immigration enforcement than on all federal criminal enforcement programs combined.
"Access to attorneys and courts and a basic set of rules for how we’re all treated in the justice system are central tenants of American values,” said Royce Bernstein Murray, director of policy at the National Immigrant Justice Center. "Congress has an opportunity to create an immigration system that honors these beliefs for years to come. Any legislative immigration reform must ensure that people who are seeking immigration status or fighting deportation have access to counsel and the opportunity to have their cases heard by judges. Congress also needs to use this opportunity to eliminate disproportionate punishments that lock people up or sentence them to permanent banishment simply for migrating to make a better life for their families. Finally, Congress must fulfill its responsibilities in our nation’s checks-and-balances system by enacting legally enforceable standards for how the Department of Homeland Security treats people in the immigration detention system. "
The hearings come shortly before Congress goes on a two week recess, where they will discuss upcoming immigration reform legislation with their constituents. These districts include hundreds of thousands of families that have been separated by deportation policies, and millions more that hope to soon be on the road to citizenship. Immigration reform legislation is expected to be introduced in both chambers in the near future.