Feb 122005
 

Congressman James Sensenbrenner (R-WI) and 114 conservatives in the House of Representatives are pushing hard for a bill “the REAL ID Act” that would make it more difficult for people persecuted for their religious beliefs to receive asylum in the United States. Under the legislation, many refugees tortured, raped and brutalized on the basis of their race, national origin or political opinions would also be turned away. Sensenbrenner claims the law is necessary “to prevent another 9/11-type attack by disrupting terrorist travel.” But current law already bars anyone who poses a security risk from being granted asylum. The bill also contains other provisions that are an affront to core American principles, including federalism, environmental stewardship and the rule of law. (Share your thoughts on the right-wing’s moral values at ThinkProgress.org.)

FAITH-BASED GROUPS SPEAK OUT: A diverse coalition of faith-based groups including an arm of the National Association of Evangelicals, B’nai B’rith International and the Midland Association of Churches have spoken out against the legislation. An interfaith statement signed by the religious groups says, “We believe that the religious traditions which we embrace calls us to oppose a narrowing of the door to asylum by some of the world’s most at risk persons. We are committed to resisting a fear driven agenda which violates our faith based principles.”

BIPARTISAN COMMISSION CONDEMNS TREATMENT OF REFUGEES: The REAL ID Act will add more problems to an already flawed system. The bipartisan United States Commission on International Religious Freedom recently released a report that found “thousands of people who come to the United States saying they are seeking refuge from persecution are treated like criminals while their claims are evaluated.” Refugee are frequently “strip-search, shackled and…thrown into solitary confinement in local jails and federal detention centers.” Some refugees are given no privacy to use the toilet and little chance to exercise outdoors. Others are allowed to work but paid only $1 per day. The commission recommended “a high-level protector of refugees be appointed to monitor the system and correct inequities.”

AN AFFRONT TO FEDERALISM: The REAL ID Act would also dictate to states driver’s license eligibility requirements. Most significantly, it would invalidate all driver’s licenses in 10 states that grant licenses to undocumented immigrants until they changed their policies. Officials in Washington State say such a mandate would endanger its residents because it would prevent many immigrants on the roads from obtaining automobile insurance. The bill, which contains no privacy protections, would also require sensitive state driver’s license data to be shared with Canada and Mexico.

BIPARTISAN COMMISSION CONDEMNS TREATMENT OF REFUGEES: The REAL ID Act will add more problems to an already flawed system. The bipartisan United States Commission on International Religious Freedom recently released a report that found “thousands of people who come to the United States saying they are seeking refuge from persecution are treated like criminals while their claims are evaluated.” Refugee are frequently “strip-search, shackled and…thrown into solitary confinement in local jails and federal detention centers.” Some refugees are given no privacy to use the toilet and little chance to exercise outdoors. Others are allowed to work but paid only $1 per day. The commission recommended “a high-level protector of refugees be appointed to monitor the system and correct inequities.”

AN AFFRONT TO FEDERALISM: The REAL ID Act would also dictate to states driver’s license eligibility requirements. Most significantly, it would invalidate all driver’s licenses in 10 states that grant licenses to undocumented immigrants until they changed their policies. Officials in Washington State say such a mandate would endanger its residents because it would prevent many immigrants on the roads from obtaining automobile insurance. The bill, which contains no privacy protections, would also require sensitive state driver’s license data to be shared with Canada and Mexico.

2005 = 1984: In an Orwellian touch, the REAL ID Act contains a provision that authorizes the Department of Homeland Security to “waive any and all laws in the course of securing the borders from illegal immigration.” The bill also contains “exemption from judicial review that not only shields the waiver decisions from court scrutiny but also strips courts of any power to order remedies for anyone harmed by the consequences of such decisions.” The provision “would empower the DHS Secretary to give no-bid contracts for border construction to private companies and then shield those contractors from all employment discrimination and workplace safety laws.” Another big concern: the provision gives DHS free reign to waive environmental laws across thousands of acres of federal lands. I’ve written here before about the scenario where George is crowned dictator. This is clearly laying the foundation for that.

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