With only days left until the end of the Bush administration, two new rules have been hastily enacted that strike at the heart of the civil liberties of immigrants and asylum seekers. One denies immigrants legal representation in deportation cases, the other mandates DNA tests for all detained immigrants and US citizens who have been accused of a crime, but not convicted.
The American Immigration Law Foundation had this to say about Attorney General Michael Mukasey's last minute decision to deny legal council in deportation cases:
On January 7, 2009, in the waning hours of a departing Administration, Attorney General Michael Mukasey unraveled decades of legal precedent guaranteeing due process to people facing life-changing consequences-namely, deportation. With less than two weeks left in office, this Administration apparently could not resist the temptation to take one more stab at undermining fundamental Constitutional principles.
In a decision issued Wednesday… the Attorney General declared that henceforth, immigrants, asylum seekers, and all others in removal (deportation) proceedings do not have any right under statute or the Constitution to representation by a lawyer before they can be ordered deported. The Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) and most federal courts have for decades operated under the premise that immigrants DO have such rights. The Attorney General has reversed many years of precedent and operation by simply declaring it so….. his declaration will wipe out the rights of all but a handful of people with one stroke of his pen.
Another Justice Department rule, which took effect Friday, directs federal agencies to collect DNA samples from foreigners who are detained by U.S. authorities.
...the U.S. government will collect DNA samples from people arrested and detained for suspected immigration violations, despite concerns that the move violates their privacy rights.
The new Justice Department policy also will expand DNA collection to people arrested on suspicion of committing federal crimes. Previously, the government only obtained DNA from people convicted of certain crimes.
The American Civil Liberties Union has voiced "grave concerns" about this expansion of governmental DNA collection to include immigrant detainees and those who have not been convicted of any crime.
Barry Steinhardt, director of the ACLU's technology and liberty program said, "People who are merely accused of a crime or a civil violation of law but haven't been convicted of anything are being subjected to the most invasive sort of testing."
These decisions reflect the total disregard for basic Constitutional rights we have come to expect from this administration.
From the warrant-less arrests and detention of not only immigrants, but US citizens, by the DHS, to the kangaroo courts of Postville that denied basic Constitutional protections, our current immigration enforcement system has become so far divorced from the rule of law, it now resembles more the system of a rogue failed-state than the worlds leading liberal democracy.
But we can start to do something about it ... we can demand a return to the true rule of law... One that respects the Constitution and the rights it guarantees.
Rights Working Group, a national coalition of more than 250 community-based groups and policy organizations dedicated to protecting civil liberties and human rights is urging President Obama to place a moratorium on current immigration enforcement practices in order to conduct a full review of DHS policies and programs to ensure that they are compliant with both Constitutional protections and internationally recognized human right standards.
Dear President-Elect Obama,
I am signing this petition to ask your Administration to address the violations of human rights and civil liberties resulting from ill-conceived immigration enforcement policies pursued by the Bush Administration. I believe our government should be committed to upholding due process and civil liberties for all people in the U.S., especially when enforcing the law. Therefore, I urge you to hold the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) accountable to protecting the human rights of citizens and non-citizens alike.
Currently, DHS' immigration enforcement policies use extreme measures to lock up undocumented workers, legal permanent residents and, at times, even U.S. citizens. Raids of homes and businesses, often without a warrant, have not only steamrolled over Constitutional protections, but also torn apart communities and families. Conditions in immigration detention facilities are overcrowded and dangerous and have deteriorated to the point where people are dying in custody from treatable ailments, and people with chronic conditions are not getting the basic medical care they require. While DHS has taken commendable measures to process numerous naturalization applications delayed by security background checks, over 30,000 such applicants are still waiting to be granted citizenship. Efficient and transparent mechanisms are needed to ensure that, in the future, all eligible immigrants can attain citizenship in a timely manner.
DHS policies which prioritize the appearance of enforcement over this nation's founding principles of liberty and justice for all do not serve the national interest. I am asking your administration to set clear, enforceable legal standards for DHS operations - standards that uphold the dignity and Constitutional rights of all people in the U.S. - and hold DHS accountable to these standards. I join the Rights Working Group in urging you to place a moratorium on current immigration enforcement practices in order to conduct a full review of DHS policies and programs to ensure that they are compliant with Constitutional protections and internationally recognized human right standards.
You can join the fight to restore the rule of law and respect for the Constitution by signing RWG's petition to end the raids and make the DHS and Justice Department respect and uphold the rights all people living in the US.