Sep 282004

Last week Congress began to take up the 9/11 Commission’s recommendations but now we have the details of the proposed legislation and it is much worse than we had expected. The proposed House bill would likely create what amounts to a national identification card, drastically curtail basic fairness in the nation’s immigration system and expand government powers under the PATRIOT Act.

Although the original purpose of the bill was intelligence reform, the current version includes several provisions that were not included in the 9/11 Commission recommendations but have been long been priorities for the hard-line anti-immigration lobby.

For example, several provisions of the legislation would drastically overhaul the current law to deny immigrants basic judicial review over unfair, arbitrary or otherwise abusive deportations. In fact, under the proposed legislation, immigrants could be deported even if their appeal was still pending, and could be sent to countries that lack functioning governments.

The proposed bill also expands the PATRIOT Act and creates new crimes. For example, mere association or membership in a designated terrorist group would be a crime, even if no money or other resources were provided.? It would apply even to someone who has nothing to do with the group’s violent activities or who is trying to persuade the group to give up violence and join the political process. My question with this provision is, “who gets to designate the groups,” and I thought the Constitution was clear about giving us all the right to freely associate?

The bill also promotes the standardization of driver’s licenses and coordination of databases in a way that could lead to the creation of a de facto national ID.

I realize that some of you may not be sympathetic to certain immigrants, but we pride ourselves on being a nation of laws and fairness. At least give them their day in court. I also agree with most others that its not cool to belong to terrorist organizations. But as I asked above, who makes the designation? This just continues a four year pattern of the current administration shredding and disregarding the protections of the Constitution.

Your representatives in Congress will, if enough pressure is brought to bear, vote the way we demand they vote. Please stand and be counted as someone opposed to government intrustion and the roll-back of our constitutional rights. You can send a fax to your representatives with a few simple clicks through the ACLU. Just start here.


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