WASHINGTON(February 9, 2005) – Traditional U.S. commitments to protecting victims of foreign persecution are undermined by legislation debated by the U. S. House of Representatives today, according to the chairman of the bishops' migration committee, and the nation will be less secure despite the claims of the measure's proponents.
"In opposing the legislation, we strongly believe that its provisions would, effectively, weaken the protection of asylum, thus preventing victims of persecution from receiving its protections; undermine our national security; and promote unsound public policy," said Bishop Gerald R. Barnes of San Bernardino, chairman of the U. S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Migration Committee.
The REAL ID Act, sponsored by House Judiciary Committee Chairman James Sensenbrenner (R-WI) would make changes in the area of asylum protection; the issuance of driver's licenses and state identification cards; the construction of barriers and walls along the U.S.-Mexico border; and in the grounds for removal and admissibility of immigrants. The legislation would also restrict judicial review of certain types of immigration relief.
In a letter to the members of the House, Bishop Barnes argued that restricting access to asylum would "deny legitimate asylum seekers protection in our nation, a traditional haven of refuge for the world's oppressed." Limiting access to driver's licenses would "make our roads
less safe" because state and local law enforcement officials have cited that denying eligibility for licenses to persons not lawfully present in the United States would increase the number of untrained, unlicensed, and uninsured drivers.
The REAL ID Act, Bishop Barnes said "would not make our nation safer, as proponents of the measure argue."
NOTE: The full text of Bishop Barnes' letter is available on the Web at: http://www.usccb.org/comm/archives/2005/05-026a.shtml