12/23: CLEAR Act update
- CLEAR Act update
Date: 12/23/2003 9:15:40 AM Pacific Standard Time
By: Lynn Tramonte
Senior Policy/Communications Associate
National Immigration Forum
This update covers the following topics:
Republicans on immigration, in an election year
Controversy in Ft. Collins, CO
St. Paul Police Chief speaks from the heart
World Relief sends letter to Congress
Resources (SCAAP totals, new backgrounders, materials in Spanish)
Take care and have happy, safe holidays!
Senior Policy/Communications Associate
National Immigration Forum
50 F Street, NW
Washington, DC 20001
direct phone 202.383.5993
main phone 202.347.0040
A Look into the Political and Policy-Making Climate for 2004
As we round 2003 into an election year, a politician's stance on immigration
is becoming increasingly important, and exposed. In 2004, an ideological
chasm between the pro-immigrant and anti-immigrant wings of the Republican Party
may bring headaches and even heartaches for some Republican members of Congress
and those on the Bush re-election team, with implications for future
Republican efforts to court immigrant voters.
Good rhetoric on immigration does not translate into good policy, while bad
rhetoric generally does translate into bad policy. Some analysts fear that,
with two strong pro-immigrant proposals teed up and ready for Congressional
action, GOP leadership may feel pressured to also enact an anti-immigrant or
enhanced enforcement "third leg of the stool" to appease those Republicans who are
still staunchly anti-immigration. These two proposals (AgJOBS and the DREAM
Act) have wide bi-partisan support and may very well be test cases for the
larger, comprehensive immigration reform we have been advocating for for some time
now. These important first steps would be severely undermined if the
trade-off is a police state for immigrants.
The CLEAR Act (and its Senate companion, the Homeland Security Enhancement
Act) was born out of the sentiment that immigrants are dangers and security
risks, and that mass deportations are both possible and the best way to deal with
the problem of unauthorized migration. Another anti-immigrant Congressman,
Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), is pushing a related proposal to have hospital
emergency rooms report suspected undocumented immigrants to the federal authorities
within two hours of treatment. The consequence of even rumors about such a
proposal is, of course, that immigrants who are undocumented or have an
undocumented family member will think twice about seeking medical care for themselves or
their children, putting the health of both individuals and entire communities
at risk. See below for an article explaining the problems with such a
proposal and showcasing some of the staunchest opponents of such a measure,
hospitals and public health experts.
Also see below for an op-ed from Manhattan Institute senior fellow Tamar
Jacoby, who analyzes the immigration proposals in Congress and recommends that the
GOP lead on pro-immigrant proposals and marginalize anti-immigrant ones.
North County Times
Monday, December 22, 2003
Last modified Tuesday, December 16, 2003 11:14 PM PST
Bill would force hospitals to report illegal immigrants
By: ERIN WALSH - Staff Writer
An Orange County congressman says he will introduce a proposal next month
that would force hospitals to report illegal immigrants who come to the emergency
room to the Immigration and Naturalization Service.
Opponents say that if approved, the bill could trigger a public health
crisis, especially in areas with large immigrant populations such as North County.
Scaring immigrants away from hospitals, they said, could cause unnecessary
deaths and eventually increase hospital costs by forcing people to put off medical
care until they are deathly ill.
Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Huntington Beach, said Tuesday that he will
introduce his plan next month in response to a new Medicare law that gives hospitals
throughout the nation an estimated $1 billion over 10 years to treat
Rohrabacher was one of a few holdouts in a drawn-out fight over the $395
billion Medicare law. In return for his vote, Rohrabacher said he reached a deal
with House of Representatives leaders to fast-track his INS proposal and bring
it to a vote in January.
State and local health officials said they don't know how much support the
proposal would garner in Congress, but they are preparing to fight.
"If a person can't come in because they're scared of being deported, they'll
get sicker and sicker and get the community sicker and sicker," said Palomar
Pomerado Health district's Jim Neal, who is in charge of making sure North
County's largest hospital system follows federal laws. The district's two
hospitals in Escondido and Poway spend more than $6 million a year treating
"Every doctor we have has concerns that this is not good medical practice,"
Neal said Tuesday. "People think it could be just plain dangerous."
Taxpayers treating illegals
But Rohrabacher, a supporter of immigration reform and a member of the
conservative wing of Republicans in Congress, said hospitals should not get taxpayer
money for treating illegal immigrants unless they are willing to turn in
undocumented patients to the INS.
"It's absolutely ridiculous that our own veterans and citizens can't get good
health care but people who come here illegally get whatever they need from
our hospitals," Rohrabacher said. "That $1 billion could turn into $50 billion
in no time if we don't have some way of holding the numbers down."
Hospitals in the United States that offer emergency care must treat all
patients who walk into the emergency room, regardless of their economic or
immigration status, according to a 1986 federal law called the Emergency Medical
Treatment and Active Labor Act. Under the law, hospitals cannot refuse to treat
patients in emergency situations, including women in labor, for economic reasons
or immigration status.
Hospitals would continue to be required to treat undocumented patients under
Rohrabacher's proposal. But the bill, he said, would require hospitals to turn
them over to immigration officials within two hours of providing treatment.
Medical groups all over the region and state said they will lobby against
Rohrabacher's proposal, saying hospitals should not be forced to play the role of
INS or Border Patrol agents.
"Our job is to provide care. It is not our job to be INS officials," said Jan
Emerson, spokesperson for the California Healthcare Association, which
represents about 500 hospitals throughout the state.
Opposition counts costs
The San Diego Medical Society and the head of a community clinic system
called North County Health Services also said they oppose Rohrabacher's plan.
"The personal cost is that people could die from preventable or treatable
problems," said Tom Gehring, executive director for the San Diego County Medical
Society. "The community's cost is that if wait until they're bleeding or
comatose or collapsed to go to the hospital, the cost of medical care will be
Rohrabacher said giving undocumented immigrants health care without
consequences encourages people to live in the United States illegally, creating a
public health crisis on its own.
"If we end up giving free health care to anyone, we'll get more and more
people bringing different diseases into our country," he said. "Now that is a
Rohrabacher's bill, which he said has not been drafted yet, will likely get
to the House floor for a vote because of a deal the congressman made with
leaders late last month during a debate over a GOP-backed Medicare bill.
According to Rohrabacher and his aides, House Speaker Dennis Hastert and
other bill supporters needed the vote of the Orange County Republican, who often
influences a handful of other conservative congressmen.
But Rohrabacher opposed giving money to hospitals for illegal immigrant care.
So the speaker and the congressman struck a deal: Rohrabacher would vote for
the Medicare bill, including the billion-dollar provision for immigrant care,
and House leaders would allow Rohrabacher to bring his INS-reporting bill to
legislators for a vote in January.
The fast track
Bills normally must make it through a number of subcommittees before heading
to the House floor. Rohrabacher said he plans to bypass those committees if
Hastert keeps his word.
As a regular bill, a proposal from a right-wing congressman from the corner
of the country may die in committee before reaching the House floor,
legislative analysts said. But even opponents of Rohrabacher's idea said it might have a
chance if it goes straight to representatives.
"I don't know if this would have a chance normally, but it would be dangerous
if it got to a vote," said Angela Hooton, a legislative attorney for the
Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund in Washington, D.C. "After 9-11,
there's a strong anti-immigration movement all over the country. That's
subsiding a little, and I think there are strong enough arguments against this
proposal. But when it comes down to a floor vote, who knows how people will vote?"
Lobbying groups, including the state health-care association and its
counterparts in other border states, New York and Washington D.C., plan to fight
Rohrabacher's proposal, Emerson said.
"Forces are mobilizing to come out strongly against this, and not just in
California," she said. "Here at home, we have 53 members of the (U.S.) House and
two senators ... we will be pressuring them hard, showing them that a bill
like that would create huge problems for hospitals in their areas."
A group of Latino federal lawmakers known as the Congressional Hispanic
Caucus also opposes the plan. In a letter to Hastert, the caucus, made up of 20
members of the U.S. House and Senate, said the proposal would "have a devastating
effect on our nation's public health" and would "take health-care officials
away from their work of caring for patients."
Officials from Tri-City Medical Center and Fallbrook Hospital had no comment
on Rohrabacher's proposal.
A spokesman for Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham, R-Escondido, said he supports
efforts to reduce illegal immigration but won't support Rohrabacher's bill if
it adds to the workloads of hospitals.
"I believe that every hospital, like every American, has a responsibility to
report illegal immigration," Cunningham said in a written statement. "However,
I do not support the creation of any new regulatory burdens for hospitals
when they are already overburdened with paperwork. ... Congressman Rohrabacher
has been a true leader in the fight to reduce illegal immigration. I intend to
examine his legislation closely as it is finalized."
Contact staff writer Erin Walsh at (760) 739-6644 or ewalsh@....
For the GOP, Immigration Carries a Lot of Baggage
By Tamar Jacoby
Sunday, December 21, 2003; Page B02
His fellow Republicans and others hardly knew what to make of Homeland
Security Secretary Tom Ridge's apparently off-the-cuff remark. At a Florida town
meeting earlier this month, Ridge responded to a question from the audience with
a startling comment about illegal immigrants. "As a country, we have to come
to grips with the presence of 8 to 12 million illegals, afford them some kind
of legal status some way," he said. Vague as it was, this was the first time an
administration official had raised the issue -- had even acknowledged the
problem of illegal immigrants, much less talked about legalizing them -- in more
than two years.
Was Ridge's aside an unguarded ad-lib, or could it have been a trial balloon
authorized by the White House, to test the waters on immigration reform?
Opponents of reform thought it was real and immediately leapt to the barricades.
Leading anti-immigration congressman Tom Tancredo, a Colorado Republican, went
so far as to call for Ridge's resignation. The White House ducked the issue,
announcing cryptically that its immigration policy was "under review." But in
the 10 days since, it has been signaling quietly -- dropping hints at news
conferences, meeting behind the scenes with reform advocates -- that it may indeed
be considering some kind of policy initiative.
Two years after 9/11, the immigration issue is back on the table, and
surprisingly enough, the debate has picked up almost exactly where it left off when
the attacks abruptly ended all discussion of reform. With fearful memories
fading and the economy on the upswing, businesses that rely on foreign labor are
again worrying about shortages, and many are clamoring for new guest-worker
programs. Meanwhile, unions and their Democratic allies sense that it may again
be safe to stand up for newcomers' rights, and they, too, are arguing for
higher immigration quotas, along with measures that would allow illegal workers
already in the country to earn their way in out of the shadows and become
citizens. All the Democratic presidential hopefuls have raised the issue on the
stump. And several bills, some Republican, some Democratic, are circulating in
The difference this time around is the division within the Republican Party.
The flap over Ridge's remark was a symptom of a far more significant conflict.
Republicans, even more than Democrats, have long been ambivalent about
immigration; business and libertarians are generally for increasing the number of
immigrants allowed in each year, rank-and-file voters more often for lowering
it. In the past year or so, that internal divide has deepened and intensified.
Part of what's widening the rift is fear of terrorism, part is concern about
the economy. Though there's no evidence that immigrants make the nation less
safe or "steal" American jobs, anti-immigration Republicans have done a
brilliant job of exploiting the public's anxiety. In the years since 9/11, Tancredo's
restrictionist Congressional Immigration Reform Caucus has more than
quadrupled from some 15 members to 69. Now that reform is again under discussion, they
frequently find themselves at odds with more immigrant-friendly Republicans,
and the conflict is shaping up as a potential battle for the soul of the
party. If the restrictionist wing prevails, there could be dire consequences not
just for the GOP, but for the nation.
The immigration issue now cuts a fault line clear through the Republican --
and conservative -- universe. The Wall Street Journal is staunchly in favor of
higher ceilings, while the Washington Times and National Review carry the
banner of restriction. The Cato Institute is for liberalization; the Center for
Immigration Studies, also funded by conservatives, favors cracking down harder.
(My own right-of-center think tank, the Manhattan Institute, is split down the
middle.) Though it would cost businesses more to hire legal migrants, many
believe expanding quotas would make for a more reliable workforce, and they are
often the driving force in negotiations to create new guest-worker programs.
But many Republican voters -- the Pat Buchanan wing of the party and others --
are up in arms over what they see as granting benefits, whether driver's
licenses or green cards or food stamps, to people they think have broken the law.
When pollsters probe for "intense opposition to immigration" -- the kind likely
to translate into votes and other action -- Republicans are far more adamant
than Democrats: According to a recent poll by the Pew Research Center, 54
percent "completely" agree that yearly ceilings should be lowered.
So, too, in Washington. Pro-immigrant GOP legislators, many from border
states -- Sens. John McCain and John Cornyn , Reps. Jeff Flake and Jim Kolbe -- are
pressing for measures to expand the legal labor supply and restore the rule
of law in heavily immigrant states by rerouting the illegal flow through legal
channels. No fewer than three GOP-sponsored guest-worker bills are circulating
on the Hill, along with a measure that would grant legal status to
high-school graduates who entered the country illegally as young children.
Meanwhile, the Tancredo faction is pushing in exactly the opposite direction,
pressing to fortify the border and augment interior enforcement. One of the
most controversial restrictionist measures would actively involve local police
in enforcing immigration law and arresting people who have no documents -- an
unprecedented practice opposed by many police departments on the grounds that
it would make it harder for them to do their jobs in immigrant communities.
The pro-immigration wing of the party makes by far the more persuasive case.
After all, as they point out, globalization makes immigration inevitable. We
can't just turn off the spigot -- and even if we could, the costs of doing so
would outweigh the benefits. Immigrants bring talent and energy , help stem the
tide of U.S. companies exporting jobs overseas, and are revitalizing urban
neighborhoods from Flushing, N.Y., to South Central Los Angeles . A large influx
of the kind we're experiencing today -- 1.3 million people a year, roughly
one-quarter of them illegal -- inevitably brings dislocations, and we need to
deal with those problems. But if global forces of supply and demand make
something like this influx unavoidable, surely it is preferable that it be legal
rather than illegal -- that we bring the entire flow above ground where we can
monitor and regulate it.
The irony is that by opposing a more rational, market-oriented immigration
policy, the restrictionists may be handing the issue to the Democratic Party. As
Democrats and Republicans in favor of higher ceilings realize, bipartisan
cooperation is the only way, in the current climate, to muster the votes to pass
legislation. More importantly, genuinely solving the problem requires meeting
both business and union concerns: providing a steady supply of workers while
also guaranteeing them market wages and labor protections so that they don't
undercut native-born laborers.
Neither a guest-worker program (a Republican idea that Democrats endorse only
under duress) nor a measure allowing illegal workers already here to come in
from the shadows (the Democrats' quid pro quo, accepted grudgingly by
Republicans) would work alone. Only the two together can hope to eliminate our
ever-growing underground workforce, putting industries from agriculture to the hotel
business back on a legal footing. But if Tancredo and his allies succeed in
blocking that kind of double-barreled reform, pro-immigration Democrats will
seize the issue and make it their own -- and eventually, chances are, polarize
the debate beyond all hope of a bipartisan solution.
Indeed, this may already be happening in Washington. The most promising
immigration legislation introduced this fall was a measure known as the AgJOBS
Bill, which would create a new guest-worker program and a path to legalization for
up to half a million Mexican farmhands. A balanced bill with some four dozen
Senate sponsors, half of them Democrats and half Republicans, it stood an
excellent chance of passing -- until it was held up in the Senate's immigration
subcommittee by chairman Saxby Chambliss, a Georgia Republican edging toward the
restrictionist camp. Meanwhile, negotiations to produce a similar package for
service-sector workers may be foundering on partisan disagreement; would-be
Democratic co-sponsors are threatening to bolt, and are thinking instead about
measures with far more expansive labor rights and less concern for law
Worse still for the GOP, Tancredo and his allies could be handing the
political future to the Democrats. Latino voters may or may not be a significant
factor in 2004: Restrictionists point out that none of the most heavily Latino
states -- New York, California, Texas -- are likely to be up for grabs. But even
Bush's lead pollster, Matthew Dowd, has long argued that the Republican Party
needs to win at least 40 percent of the Hispanic vote to remain competitive.
And poll after poll is unequivocal. Immigration is a defining issue for Latino
voters, with support for expanded quotas and legalization of those already in
the country running in the 80- to 90-percent range.
The White House can make a difference if indeed it comes forward with a
proposal, throwing its weight behind the pro-immigration wing of the GOP. But even
then, an effective solution would need to be bipartisan -- and the challenge
for the president will be to lead a broad-based effort. If he fails -- if the
debate turns bitter and grandstanding -- it's possible that nothing will pass
until the Democrats retake Congress. And then, if and when something does get
through, it will almost surely be skewed sharply leftward, serving neither
business interests nor the rest of the country.
Does the national Republican Party want to go the way of the California GOP,
which waged war on immigrants and lost the reins of power for nearly a decade?
Do Republicans want to walk into the future tagged not just as anti-black,
but also anti-immigrant? If the merits of the issue made it necessary, party
leaders might rightly choose to pay that price. But they don't. We all, Democrats
and Republicans alike, have a stake in sensible, bipartisan immigration
reform that reflects the realities of the global marketplace and enhances our
Tamar Jacoby is a senior fellow of the Manhattan Institute and the editor of
"Reinventing the Melting Pot: The New Immigrants and What It Means To Be
American," to be published by Basic Books in February.
© 2003 The Washington Post Company
Group Sues Federal Government Over Immigration Information in Crime Database
On December 17th a group of immigrant advocates filed a lawsuit in federal
court in Brooklyn, alleging that "the Justice Department and Federal Bureau of
Investigation have unlawfully entered civil immigration information into a
federal criminal database, the National Crime Information Center (NCIC), accessed
by state and local police millions of times each day, subjecting immigrants to
the risk of unlawful arrest by state and local police" (press release,
Plaintiffs in the lawsuit are National Council of La Raza; American-Arab
Anti-Discrimination Committee; Latin American Workers Project; UNITE; and the New
York Immigration Coalition. Lawyers representing the plaintiffs are Cleary,
Gottlieb, Steen & Hamilton; American Civil Liberties Union Foundation,
Immigrants' Rights Project; The Bronx Defenders; and Washington Square Legal Services,
The lawsuit received a lot of press attention last week (one article and a
link to a radio piece appear below, and a press clippings packet is available
from Dan Smulian of the New York Immigration Coalition at dsmulian@...).
Press reports also indicated that the Department of Homeland Security is
considering expanding the categories of immigration information it enters into
NCIC to include violators of the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System
(SEVIS). Given deep concerns over such a proposal (such as SEVIS usage
problems, questionable data integrity, and a lack of proportionality in asking local
police to arrest someone with a very minor status violation like dropping
down to part-time status for a semester), the lawsuit is both timely and
important. There is a general need for clarification of the arrest authority of
police in civil immigration matters, both for police department legal advisors and
the federal agencies responsible for how this information is being used in
NCIC. The lawsuit challenges policies that arose out of the undisclosed 2002
Justice Department Office of Legal Counsel opinion that reportedly finds police
have "inherent authority" in all immigration matters, in contrast to the
long-standing policy, practice, and legal determination of this department that
state and local police are limited to enforcing criminal but not civil immigration
Both the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) and Representative
Norwood (R-GA) issued statements responding to the lawsuit; Norwood's
statement is pasted below.
December 17, 2003
Crime Database Misused for Civil Issues, Suit Says
By NINA BERNSTEIN
The Departments of Justice and Homeland Security are unlawfully using a
national crime database to get local police departments to enforce civil
immigration laws, lawyers who have assembled a federal class-action lawsuit against the
practice said yesterday.
The lawsuit, which they plan to file today in Federal District Court in
Brooklyn, is the first to challenge the addition of civil information about
thousands of noncitizens to the National Criminal Information Center database, which
the F.B.I. uses to notify law enforcement agencies about people wanted for
Immigration violations, like staying in the country after a visa has expired,
can lead to deportation but are not criminal matters and have traditionally
been the responsibility of federal agents.
Congress has neither authorized nor required local police agencies to
routinely arrest people for such violations, and a bill that would do so has drawn
unexpectedly strong opposition from many police departments, including those in
New York, Los Angeles, Miami, Houston, Denver, Boston and Chicago. Advocates
for immigrants argue that it would undermine local crime-fighting by making
immigrants even more fearful of reporting crimes or helping with police
The plaintiffs in the lawsuit - the National Council of La Raza, the New York
Immigration Coalition, the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, the
Latin American Workers Project and Unite - contend that Attorney General John
Ashcroft, Homeland Security and the F.B.I. are misusing the database.
"Ashcroft is not waiting on Congress, not waiting for the courts, but seizing
power for himself under the guise of the war on terror," said Michael
Wishnie, a lawyer for the plaintiffs and an associate professor at the New York
University School of Law. "It will work a sea change in the relations between
police and immigration communities across the nation, to the detriment of us all."
Mr. Wishnie said he knew of at least one citizen who was mistakenly arrested
in New York and held for weeks because of inaccurate information in the
database. He said many people at risk of arrest by the local police because of
immigration violations were workers with no criminal records.
Government officials declined to answer questions about the lawsuit's claims,
but Jorge Martinez, a Justice Department spokesman, said the department
always cooperated with Homeland Security to make the crime database "the most
effective tool it can be in our effort to protect the American people."
The national crime database had its beginnings as a federal clearinghouse
during Prohibition, but because of concerns about overzealous agents it has been
restricted mainly to criminal justice records like rap sheets, criminal
warrants and stolen property records, the plaintiffs said. It does not include civil
records for matters like tax evasion or failure to pay child support, they
The only civil matters included in the database were specifically added by
Congress, like orders of protection against domestic violence and stalking,
added in 1994 as part of the Violence Against Women Act. Congress has resisted
involving local police officials in immigration law, although a 1996 law allowed
them to enter special agreements to do so with training and supervision. Only
Florida and Alabama signed up for the program.
Thousands of local, state, federal and tribal law enforcement agencies
consult the powerful database, at a rate of 3.7 million times a day, with an average
response time of 0.12 seconds. It is often consulted during routine traffic
stops or patrols.
Officials say a unit of the Department of Homeland Security in Burlington,
Vt., adds the immigration violator records and checks them for accuracy. But the
plaintiffs say the poor quality of immigration records and the complexity of
immigration law make mistakes inevitable.
Last year, Mr. Ashcroft announced that the Justice Department's Office of
Legal Counsel had concluded that state and local police officials have "inherent
authority" to arrest and detain people who are in violation of immigration
laws. He has refused to make public the legal documents used in the decision.
When lawyers at the Migration Policy Institute, an advocacy and research
organization, questioned the legal basis for the change, Alberto R. Gonzales,
counsel to President Bush, replied in a June 2002 letter that "only high-risk
aliens who fit a terrorist profile" would be placed in the crime database. "The
administration is taking these measures in its effort to strengthen homeland
security and combat terrorism," Mr. Gonzales added.
In practice, a senior immigration official said, more than 300,000 names of
noncitizens subject to deportation orders have been added since June 2002. Some
are felons, but many are noncitizens who had been ordered deported, usually
because they failed to leave the country when their visas expired.
Government officials have also announced their intention to add a category of
civil immigration records to the database: foreign students who have not
maintained enough credits, earned minimum grades or otherwise violated a condition
of a student visa, according to university records.
Since the change, local police departments have been making immigration
arrests when a routine check of the database confirms that someone is named as a
violator. As of late this year, 5,092 noncitizens with immigration violations
had been arrested by local police departments through routine computer checks.
The city with the most such arrests was Boston, with 631 since June, followed
by Los Angeles with 456, San Diego with 403, San Francisco with 347 and New
York with 317.
Some of the sharpest criticism of the practice has come from police
officials. Craig Ferrell, deputy director of the Houston Police Department, said his
department was "completely opposed" to including noncriminal information in the
database. "You're going to cut down the ability to solve a lot of crimes," Mr.
Ferrell said. "We need to be dealing with criminal law - that's what we do
If someone is deemed a national security risk, he added, immigration law
violations can be charged as crimes. He added: "With 10 million illegals in this
country, hopefully we don't have 10 million who are going to be security risks
or we are in a lot of trouble."
Corrections | Help | Back to Top
Databases Illegally Target Immigrants
National Public Radio: Morning Edition
Congressman Charlie Norwood, 9th District, Georgia
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
December 17, 2003
CLEAR Act Strengthens NCIC Database & Law Enforcement Access
Norwood Questions Lawsuit Seeking to Handcuff Local Law Enforcement
(Washington, DC) - U.S. Representative Charlie Norwood (GA-09) questioned a
lawsuit expected to be filed today that asserts local and state law enforcement
officers should not have access to immigration violation data contained in
the National Criminal Information Center (NCIC) database, and pointed to the
CLEAR Act as legislation needed to address America's criminal alien crisis.
"Keeping our law enforcement officers in the dark doesn't make America's
streets safer for anyone," commented Norwood. "At a time when our officers are
faced with arresting and re-arresting the same 80,000 criminal aliens over and
over again, we should be giving them greater access to data and more resources -
not lawsuits that make their jobs even more dangerous by withholding critical
Among the bill's provisions, the CLEAR Act would make all violations of
immigration law criminal offenses and create a new category within the NCIC
database containing immigration violators.
In addition to the 112 bipartisan congressional cosponsors of the CLEAR Act,
the bill has also been endorsed by an overwhelming number of national,
regional, and local law enforcement organizations. These include the National
Sheriffs' Association, Law Enforcement Alliance of America, Southern States Police
Benevolent Association, Friends of Immigration Law Enforcement, Illinois
Association of Chiefs of Police, and Connecticut Association of Women's Police among
"I'm sorry to hear that the special interest groups wanting to overturn
America's immigration laws and their lawyers think handcuffing our local and state
law enforcement officers would be good policy - they're absolutely dead
wrong," added Norwood. "The fact is, our nation's men and women wearing the badge
understand the criminal alien crisis better than anyone and they're supporting
the CLEAR Act as a much needed and reasonable solution. It's time we finally
gave local and state law enforcement folks the access to data and resources they
deserve. The CLEAR would do just that."
For more information about the CLEAR Act, please contact Duke Hipp at (202)
Ordinance in Ft. Collins Causing Controversy
Advocates in Ft. Collins, Colorado have been working with members of their
city council to pass a "Human Rights Ordinance" that would limit civil servants'
ability to make immigration status inquiries. After a contentious meeting,
both the chairman and vice chairwoman of the city Human Relations Commission
resigned. According to press reports, the controversy centers on the question
of whether or not the ordinance is needed in the city in addition to other
civil rights and anti-racial profiling statutes already on the books.
Below is an op-ed from one of the lead advocates pressing the case for a
separate ordinance that makes sure immigrants seek access to city services for
which they are qualified-including police protection-regardless of their federal
Proposal would foster trust, safety in city
Topic: Human Rights Protection Ordinance
By Cheryl Distaso
Last September, in the Southern Colorado town of Sanford, two brothers were
pulled over by the police because they had a broken taillight.
Eduardo and Edgar Garcia, 19 and 22 years old, were deported four days later.
They had lived in Colorado for 16 years; they were active, productive members
of their community. But they did not have proper documentation. The police
turned them over to the Immigration and Naturalization Service, and the Garcia
brothers are now living in Mexico, where they do not know the culture and
barely even speak the language. They were torn from their parents, their friends,
Many in Sanford are mobilized in the effort to bring them home, working with
congressional representatives, and contacting Mexico President Vicente Fox.
The return of the Garcia brothers seems unlikely at this point.
Terror has spread in waves as this story echoes throughout immigrant
communities. Few of us can understanding the true oppression associated with the fear
of losing everything because of one simple, innocent mistake: a broken
taillight, failure to signal, a license plate light burnt out.
When people within a community live with such fear, there is a complete
breakdown of trust and cooperation. People are afraid to report crimes as either
victims or witnesses. Law enforcement agencies are looked upon as the enemy.
Public safety is at great risk.
It is detrimental to the health of a community to have the local police de
partment enforce federal civil immigration laws. It is very simply not their job.
The Fort Collins Human Relations Commission presented City Council with the
Human Rights Protection Ordinance for consideration on Nov. 18. This ordinance
would prevent the Sanford scenario from playing out in Fort Collins. It would
protect all residents from inquiries about their immigration status from city
officials. It would create a safer, more trusting, more cooperative community.
It would discourage racial profiling; it would encourage respect for
The Fort Collins city attorney stated that existing laws protect the civil
rights of illegal immigrants, state laws that prohibit racial profiling and
harassment by enforcement personnel.
However, these are the same laws that Sanford police were working with. The
Garcia brothers were deported from their homes within the boundaries of these
Immigrant communities are living in terror within the boundaries of these
laws. People of color are fearful of mistreatment by the police within the
boundaries of these laws. Community structures are deteriorating within the
boundaries of these laws.
Clearly, we need a new law; we need the Human Rights Protection Ordinance to
enumerate what police may and may not do. Officials in Fort Collins must be
able to promise the immigrant community that what happened in Sanford will never
happen here. Currently, this promise cannot be made.
In this post-9/11 climate, there is a great deal of anti-immigrant backlash.
The lines between the INS and local police departments have been blurred.
Attorney General John Ashcroft reinterpreted existing laws and overturned decades
of legal precedent by initiating policies that allow local police departments
to enforce federal civil immigration law.
Moreover, pending federal legislation -- such as the CLEAR Act and The
Homeland Security Enhancement Act -- threaten basic civil rights. Fortunately, the
city attorney has stated that our city can opt out of this federal legislation,
should it pass.
We have a clear choice to make: We can work together as a community to build
relationships and trust, or we can choose to scapegoat and live with suspicion
My hope is that we choose the former. Please urge City Council to consider
the Human Rights Protection Ordinance.
Cheryl Distaso is the Coordinator of the Center for Justice, Peace and
Environment and a member of the Human Rights Protection Coalition.
Originally published Tuesday, December 16, 2003
Inspiring Words from St. Paul Police Chief
Following is an excerpt from an interview with St. Paul Police Chief William
Finney that was recently published in the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.
Thanks to Peter Brown in the Twin Cities area for sending this along. The
excerpted passage below reflects the Chief's views about asking local police to
enforce federal civil immigration laws. Advocates that were successful in passing a
local ordinance in Minneapolis have taken their effort to St. Paul to pass a
similar law, and it seems they have a powerful ally!
'This is your ministry'
By: Isaac Peterson, III
Originally posted 12/11/2003
Conclusion of a four-part interview
In a long and wide-ranging interview, Chief of Police William "Corky" Finney
(WF) recently spoke to the Spokesman-Recorder about what led him to become a
police officer, his philosophy of "police service," and his plans after leaving
In deference to the chief's narrative strengths and the importance of his
message, the Spokesman-Recorder ran the full text of the interview in four weekly
parts with as few interruptions as possible.
William Finney (WF): We worked on the West Side, put together a program
called "Spanish Emerge" for cops. We worked with Cesar Chavez School on the East
Side. We actually had the cops sitting there with young kids and teachers and
they learned how to speak Spanish fluently; a lot of different dialects,
Mexican, Central American Spanish, yadda yadda.
All of a sudden we've got a lot of newcomers who speak Spanish here on the
West Side and elsewhere. Even if you don't speak it fluently and try to, it puts
them more at ease, and they know you're trying to serve them, rather than
The whole issue is service. You're trying to deliver service. I'm not
interested in whether they have a green card or not; the INS [Immigration and
Naturalization Service] has got to worry about that. I'm interested in if they're
here and if they're doing something, that it's not illegal activity. If they're
doing illegal activity, now I've got to deal with it. But if they're not doing
that, while they're here, I want to serve them, and I don't want to have a
conflict with them.We can't be going around like Nazi soldiers talking about
"Show me your papers." Get the hell out of here with that! It's not our job to do
"Show me your papers." We don't do that. And if you want us to do that, put it
Put it into law; step up, Mr. Congressman, and say, "It's now the job of
local police officers to check people's citizenship papers." Oh yeah, that's gonna
fly real high. All the real right-wing people are gonna say, "How dare you
ask me for my papers? Go ask them for theirs." Wait a minute; how am I supposed
to decide as a police officer who I should ask for papers? "Well, can't you
look at them and tell you should be asking them for papers?" No, I can't!
Minnesota Spokesman Recorder: That's racial profiling.
WF: You're damned right! No, I can't look at them and tell! So I'd just have
to ask everybody.All the "real Americans" would be very offended, because
they've got First Amendment rights. But people that are brand new here don't.
Well, that's not what the Constitution says; everybody in this country's got First
World Relief Weighs in With Congress on the CLEAR Act
World Relief, the humanitarian arm of the National Association of
Evangelicals (NAE), has sent a letter to Congress opposing the CLEAR Act. The text of
this letter is pasted below.
December 17, 2003
Hon. F. James Sensenbrenner, Jr.
Chairman, Judiciary Committee
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, D.C. 20515
Dear Representative Sensenbrenner,
I am writing to express my concern about HR 2671, known as the CLEAR Act, and
to ask that you not support this proposed legislation.
As a retired Rear Admiral in the United States Navy, I dedicated thirty-one
years to the defense of my country. I strongly support initiatives that would
increase our security at a time when we continue to face the threat of global
The CLEAR Act purports to enhance homeland security by deputizing state and
local police as immigration agents. However, I believe it would have the
opposite effect. The CLEAR Act would burden police, who are already overworked,
with a new mandate to enforce highly technical civil immigration statutes,
diverting them from higher priority tasks, while making their work more difficult.
Effective police work depends on community cooperation. The CLEAR Act would
have a chilling effect on police relations in immigrant communities, which
would now be less likely to report crimes, serve as witnesses, and otherwise
cooperate with police. For this reason police departments from Boston to Los
Angeles strongly oppose this legislation.
Further, by flooding the National Crime Information Center database with
hundreds of thousands of students, farm workers, and other nonviolent immigrants,
we would further complicate the task of apprehending the handful of terrorists
who seek to harm our country. It would be harder to find the terrorist
needles in the proverbial haystack, because we would be adding massive mounds of
new hay to the pile.
I believe it is time for the Congress to enact sensible immigration reform
that provides for secure borders, the orderly admission of immigrants,
reunification of immigrant families, and the opportunity for those who are already
present and working in our communities to earn legal status. As Secretary Tom
Ridge has emphasized, immigration reform is very much in our national interest.
Thank you for considering these views.
R. Timothy Ziemer
Rear Admiral, USN (ret)
SCAAP Totals for FY 2003 and 2003
To see which counties receive the most State Criminal Alien Assistance
Program (SCAAP) money, or to find out how much your jurisdiction could lose if the
CLEAR Act passes, refer to the following SCAAP totals from the Justice
FY 2003 -- http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/BJA/grant/03SCAAP.pdf
FY 2002 -- http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/BJA/html/scaap_2002.htm
Lawyers Committee for Human Rights Urges Action Against CLEAR
The Lawyers Committee for Human Rights (LCHR) has a new backgrounder on the
CLEAR Act, entitled "Our New Federalism: Broad Based Concern About Local Law
Enforcement of Federal Immigration Laws"
(http://www.lchr.org/us_law/us_law_16.htm). If you are inspired to act after reading this article, visit their
Action Center at http://capwiz.com/lchr/mail/oneclick_compose/?alertid=4454441.
American Immigration Lawyers Association Translates Materials into Spanish
The American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) has translated some of
its advocacy materials into Spanish. For CLEAR Act-specific documents, see
Backgrounder in Spanish: http://www.aila.org/fileViewer.aspx?docID=11818
Action Alert in Spanish:
**Please Join our new national Immigrant Soliadrity Network listserv!!
webpage: http://www.actionla.org/ISN/ (For latest immigrant issues/news)
*to join the litserv, send e-mail to: isn-subscribe@...
*a monthly ISN digest listserv, go to webpage
*to join the US-Mexico Border Information Bulletin, send e-mail to:
US-Mexico Border Actions
No Militarization of Borders! Support Immigrant Rights!
PLease subscribe Border Information listserv, send e-mail to:
*BorderInfo is a activist project of ActionLA
Action for World Liberation Everyday!
Please join our ActionLA Listserv
go to: http://lists.riseup.net/www/subscribe/actionla
or send e-mail to: actionla-subscribe@...
*To Translate this page to Arabic, please visit ajeeb.com:
*To Translate this page to French, Spanish, German, Italian or Portuguese,
please visit Systran:
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