Sunday, September 03, 2006

Tim Walberg on Immigration

This post relies heavily on Migra Matters: Progressive Immigration Reform, a blog dedicated to analyzing illegal immigration and the politics surrounding it. My selective quoting and not-so-witty commentary doesn't come close to the comprehensive information collected at that site, and anyone interested in the issue should spend a great deal of time there.

We all know Tim Walberg (Radical Conservative) is anti-abortion, anti-marriage equality, and anti-taxation. But what about the divisive issue of 2006, immigration?

The Adrian Daily Telegram reported this:
WALBERG: Says the proposal passed by the U.S. House of Representatives has been the closest to his ideal plan. First, Walberg says, borders need to be secured. No amnesty will be offered, but the legal immigration process must remain open. Immigrants must have clear documentation. “As we find them, then we must deal with the illegals that are here and deal with the employers that knowingly hire illegal aliens,” he says.
It sounds straightforward enough. Secure borders, but allow legal immigration. Then we "deal with the illegals" and their employers. He says it's all put together in the proposal passed already by the US House of Representatives, but that stalled in the Senate and the White House.

This is what the House bill would do (courtesy of Migra Matters, an immigration reform blog):
  • Increase security forces and surveillance along the border.
  • Give the power to immigration officials within 100 miles of the border to expel without a hearing anyone believed to be a recently arrived illegal immigrant.
  • Expand mandatory detention to apply to all non-citizens arriving at a port of entry or “along” the border.
  • Limit the basic rights of immigrants to judicial review, even by the constitutionally guaranteed writ of habeas corpus.
  • Criminalize all violations of immigration law, even if the violation was unintentional or the result of processing delays
  • Give additional powers to detain non-citizens indefinitely without judicial review, potentially placing many non-citizens in a legal black hole that subjects them to a life sentence after having served a criminal sentence, or, in some cases, without ever having been convicted of a crime.
Sounds tough, right? But there are some problems with the bill, as outlined by Migra Matters. For starters, it gives border patrol agents broad powers outside of our judicial system or the current administrative process.
It would require the border patrol to pick up and deport, without any administrative hearing, anyone within 100 miles of the border that an agent thinks is an undocumented immigrant who has been present less than 14 days. How the officers are to determine the legal status of the deportees is not addressed in the legislation. The de facto result of this legislation is that anyone within 100 miles of the border (north or south) who is suspected of being here illegally could by deported without any sort of hearing or reviews.
Anyone can recognize the danger in this-- an agent's own prejudices and suspicions could lead to legal residents being deported without an opportunity to argue their case. But what about the rest of the bill?

The mandatory detentions?
Under current law, individuals who arrive without documents, including asylum-seekers, are subject to mandatory detention. Again this applies mainy to those arriving at airports or by sea. 60% of detainees are held in local jails under contract to the federal government, where they are generally not segregated from the criminal population even if they are asylum-seekers and others with no criminal record.

Under this new bill, the mandatory detention policy would be extended to all non-citizens who are detained at any port of entry or anywhere “along” the border for any reason.
Any non-citizen, not just those without documentation, detained for any reason ends up in jail. That's quite a friendly welcome to the land of the free.

When the bill was passed, a great deal of attention focused on the provision making illegal immigration a felony. Many, I'm sure, would argue in support of that tough-on-crime stance, since they are, after all, breaking the law. Right? Well...
As defined in the bill it includes any violation, even technical, of any immigration law or regulation. Even if the immigrant was to fall “out of status” unintentionally, or do to paperwork delays. In essence, the bill makes every immigration violation, however minor, into a federal crime. As drafted, the bill also makes the new crime of “illegal presence” an “aggravated felony” for immigration purposes.
(Emphasis added)

How is an "aggravated felony" usually defined? Here's a sample, but a full definition is available if you follow the link.

The term "aggravated felony" means

(A) murder, rape, or sexual abuse of a minor;

(B) illicit trafficking in a controlled substance (as defined in section 102 of the Controlled Substances Act), including a drug trafficking crime (as defined in section 924(c) of title 18, United States Code);

(C) illicit trafficking in firearms or destructive devices (as defined in section 921 of title 18, United States Code) or in explosive materials (as defined in section 841(c) of that title);

I'm a little old-fashioned, but I never thought of paperwork delays as quite this serious.

Migra Matters continues...
HR 4437 would permit indefinite detention of an increased broad class of non-citizens, including:
  • those with a contagious disease
  • any non-citizen convicted of an “aggravated felony,” (see above)
  • non-citizens whose release would pose foreign policy problems
  • non-citizens charged even with very minor immigration violations who, based on secret evidence, are deemed a national security risk.
    Indefinite detention? Secret evidence?

    Immigration reform is a serious issue facing the country today, and ought to be addressed. But the bill that Tim Walberg supports doesn't address the issue. It creates new standards for punishing immigrants without regard for guilt or innocence, and gives broad new powers to border patrol agents-- powers that police and the military aren't trusted with.

    And on top of that, it counts on the government always having its information organized. Is that something you'd bet money on?
    The problem with all of HR 4437 (outside of its possible unconstitutionality, racist overtones, and a lack of judicial checks and balances) is that all of these new programs are predicated on the government having a reliable, accurate and easily accessible information management system to ensure that those who don't "belong" here are kept out, while those who do belong are not penalized.

    Currently immigrants can wait for months and sometimes years to have their paperwork handled. Often they will fall "out of status" for long periods of time while they wait for the government to process their paperwork. Work permits expire, TPS status expires, and immigrants must wait for their new cards to be processed. Under 4437 all of these immigrants would automatically be subject to prosecution.

    Then there is the problem of the computer systems and record keeping. The US Citizenship and Immigration Service, a branch of Homeland Security, has come under fire from outside analysts and government auditors for having one of the most ineffective data management systems in the entire government.
    This is the kind of immigration reform Tim Walberg wants. Is it really what Michigan's 7th District wants?

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    If a Border Agent could expell, withoiut legal review, someone he thinks is an illegal who has been here less than 14 days then whaty is to stop said agent from expelling citizens? What is to stop said agent from expelling someone who pissed him off?
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