The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Shawn Jain, (202) 417-7547,

ACLU Comment on First Day of Immigration Reform Markup

Encouraging Day for Civil Liberties, Including for Racial Profiling Reform


"The immigration reform bill remained largely intact and unscathed after the first day of markup," said Laura W. Murphy, director of ACLU's Washington Legislative Office. "The fact is that though the 'Gang of Eight' compromise has flaws, it represents movement in the right direction. We will continue to push for amendments that strengthen civil liberties and fight those that make the road to citizenship less fair, more difficult or more punitive."

Positive developments today included the passage of key amendments that strengthen civil liberties protections in the bill:

  • Blumenthal 10 - Racial Profiling - One key provision of this amendment says that oversight will be extended to a program that reimburses states and localities for criminal prosecution and detention of people in immigration cases initiated by the federal government. For example, with this amendment, the Attorney General will not reimburse when there is reason to believe the detention or prosecution resulted from a violation of the law by a law enforcement official, such as an act of racial profiling.
  • Feinstein 6 - Humane Conditions for Children in Customs and Border Patrol Custody

Extreme amendments that would have weakened the bill failed, including:

  • Grassley 4, Cruz 1, and Sessions 9 - Border Enforcement on Steroids - Sen. Grassley's (R-Iowa) amendment would have required federal law enforcement authorities to establish operational control of the entire U.S.-Mexico border for six months before allowing aspiring Americans to earn legal status. As the Wall Street Journal recently editorialized, those "who claim we must 'secure the border first' [before allowing legalization for aspiring Americans] ignore the progress already made because their real goal isn't border security. It is to use border security as an excuse to kill immigration reform."
  • Lee 4 - Unnecessary Hoops for Aspiring Americans - Would have added an unnecessary additional legislative process for temporary legal status applications by aspiring Americans to be processed. The Senate Judiciary Committee rightly decided that a path to lawful status and citizenship should not have to pass through another political gauntlet.
  • Sessions 37 - Guts Border Patrol Use of Force Protections - Would have struck at the core of language highlighting the need for stronger protocols around Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) use of force incidents. Given the doubling of CBP agents at the border over the last decade and rise of incidents of abuses, it's encouraging to see that the bill's call for the creation of an oversight body known as the DHS Border Task Force remains intact.

Unfortunately, Grassley 1, which extends border enforcement build-up to areas not deemed to be high risk, did pass. This could lead to even more wasteful border spending in areas where it's not needed.

Also, Feinstein 1 unfortunately did pass, which would offer federal payments to state and local law enforcement agencies based on the charges, not convictions, of people they arrest. This would create an added financial incentive for local and state law enforcement agents to engage in racial profiling, making pretextual arrests of people they believe to be immigrants, even if they know the charges will not be sustained.

"We still have a long way to go before this bill lands on President Obama's desk and can become law," added Murphy. "But we will not rest until that happens because our nation's promise of freedom and our national security require that we bring as many of the 11million aspiring Americans out of the shadows, into legal status, and into a broad and inclusive road to full citizenship."

The American Civil Liberties Union was founded in 1920 and is our nation's guardian of liberty. The ACLU works in the courts, legislatures and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to all people in this country by the Constitution and laws of the United States.

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