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February 19, 2006

Urgent: Irish Immigration Update

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From: Matt Bowles (ACLU's National Field Organizer)
Sent: Sunday, February 19, 2006 6:32 PM
Subject: Urgent Irish Immigration Update


I wanted to give you an update on the immigration
legislation being considered by Congress that poses a
serious threat to the civil liberties of the Irish

Our time is running out to stop or improve this
legislation so it is going to be crucial that we
jump into action. In the upcoming weeks the Irish
community has a unique opportunity to have an influence
on the final drafts of legislation that will be moving

Please feel free to circulate this email to
other leaders in the Irish-American community who could
take action on these issues.

Thanks for all of your hard work and dedication to this.

Matt Bowles


As you know, the Sensenbrenner-King bill has already
passed the House and poses a grave threat to Irish
immigrants. There are currently multiple immigration
bills that have been introduced in the Senate, some
better than others. I know some of the Irish groups have
endorsed McCain-Kennedy, but the reality is that McCain-
Kennedy is not going to move. The immigration bill that
will be the vehicle in the Senate, and that will
ultimately have to be conferenced with Sensenbrenner-
King if it passes, is a bill by Senator Arlen Specter
that will be circulated later this week. As Chair of
the Judiciary Committee he will be taking parts of the
different bills and putting them together to create his
own. So, it will be imperative for the leadership of
the Irish community to tell Specter that he should
include the good parts of the McCain-Kennedy bill and
not to include the bad parts we have seen in the
Sensenbrenner-King bill.


Chairman Specter will circulate a draft of his bill on
Thursday, February 28th. That means that we have
Tuesday and Wednesday of this week to pressure him to
improve his draft bill before it is released publicly.
Please call (and write if you have time) Senator Specter
before next Thursday.

After it is introduced on Thursday, there will be
Judiciary Committee mark-ups of the bill on each of the
following three Thursdays (March 2, 9, and 16). During
those markups, Senators on the Judiciary Committee will
be able to propose amendments to the Specter bill.
During these three weeks, it will be very important for
the Irish American community to pressure the members to
the Judiciary Committee to support amendments that
improve the bill, and oppose amendments that make it
worse. And finally it will be important to pressure
other Senators to support good amendments on the floor
and oppose bad ones when this comes to a vote, probably
by early April.


Specter (R-PA) - Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee
DeWine (R-OH) - Judiciary Committee Member
Biden (D-DE) - Judiciary Committee Member
Feinstein (D-CA) - Judiciary Committee Member
Schumer (D-NY) - Judiciary Committee Member
Clinton (D-NY)
Lugar (R-IN)
Voinovich (R-OH)


We have seen the Sensenbrenner-King bill and we
understand that a new bill will be introduced by Senator
Specter in the Senate relating to Immigration. We wish
to convey to the Senator our concerns about provisions
in these other bills, which pose a direct threat to the
Irish immigrant community in America, and ask that he
not include any such provisions in his bill. The
problematic provisions that raise serious concerns for
us are the following:


The Sensenbrenner bill would explicitly authorize
detention of Irish non-citizens for an unlimited time if
they cannot be removed from the United States. So, if
Ireland or the UK refused to accept an Irish non-citizen
being deported from the US (for example, because they
deemed that person a national security risk as a result
of that person's prior involvement with the IRA), the
bill would permit the indefinite detention of of that
person in the US.

Furthermore, if an Irish non-citizen were charged even
with very minor immigration violations, but the US
deemed that person a national security risk, they could
also be held indefinitely.


The Sensenbrenner bill will make every immigration
violation, however minor, into a federal crime. The
bill would create a new federal crime of "illegal
presence" - even without any intent to violate the
immigration laws.

Furthermore, the overbroad definition of "smuggling"
could criminalize the work of Catholic churches or Irish
refugee organizations acting in good faith. Harboring
anyone from Ireland who is illegally in the US is made a
crime, even if the church or Irish organization
assisting the individual had no intent of financial
gain. It makes it criminal for churches or refugee
organizations to try to help and treats such
organizations the same as smuggling operations.


The Sensenbrenner bill empowers the US government to
revoke the visas of Irish temporary residents without
judicial review. Irish visitors, students, guest
workers to the U.S. who hold non-immigrant visas (e.g.,
students, guest workers, etc.) must sign a waiver of
their right to judicial review to obtain a visa.

Deportation of Irish immigrants based on secret evidence
of involvement in a terrorist group or merely
'endorsing' or 'espousing' terrorism will no longer have
judicial review.

Furthermore, all federal immigration cases would be
funnelled into a separate court of appeals for
immigration, ghettoizing deportation cases away from the
regular justice system with serious consequences to the
quality of justice.


Requires the border patrol to pick up and deport -
without even an administrative hearing - Irish non-
citizens arriving within 100 miles of the border that an
agent thinks are undocumented immigrants who have been
present less than 14 days. This includes ports of entry
such as airports in New York and Boston.

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