WASHINGTON (September 29, 2004) -- Legislation implementing the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission contains a number of provisions "extremely harmful to immigrants, asylum-seekers, and refugees," according to the chairman of the bishops' migration committee, who urged that the language be dropped.
"The provisions … will have serious ill-effects on immigrants, refugees, and asylum seekers to this nation without necessarily making our nation safer," said Bishop Thomas Wenski, coadjutor bishop of Orlando. "Many reach beyond the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission report."
Specifically, Bishop Wenski's letter urged members of the U.S. House to oppose sections of the bill related to:
- Alien identification standards: The bill would require aliens in the United States to use only Department of Justice or Department of Homeland Security-issued identification or a foreign passport. Consular identification cards, issued by foreign governments, would no longer be allowed.
- Expedited removal: This provision would increase the period an immigrant is subject to expedited removal from two years to five years. Expedited removal is the process by which an immigration officer (not an immigration judge) can determine that an individual is inadmissible and subsequently order that individual deported. "The expanded use of expedited removal would undermine the basic due process rights of asylum seekers to this nation," Bishop Wenski said.
- Due process: Several sections of the bill would undermine standard due-process protections for immigrants, such as prohibiting federal courts from holding up a deportation – even while a case is pending, and allowing the government to deport foreigners to countries that lack a functioning government. The bill also establishes four new evidentiary standards for asylum-seekers, severely limiting the opportunity for bona fide asylum-seekers to receive protection in the United States.
- Revocation of visas and other travel documents: The bill contains language that precludes administrative or judicial review of the revocation of a visa, among other related provisions.
- Exception to restriction on removal for terrorists and criminals: Under one section of the bill, someone claiming to be a victim of torture would have to provide "clear and convincing" evidence, beyond the standards established under the U.N. Convention Against Torture (CAT). "This would raise the likelihood that torture victims would be sent back to their torturers," Bishop Wenski said.
- Drivers' licenses and personal identification cards: The bill establishes minimum standards for federal recognition of state-issued driver's licenses or identification cards. This chapter would infringe upon the right of states to issue identity documents and drivers' licenses.