May 24, 2011
New Immigration Bill Would Increase Detention of Asylum Seekers
New York, N.Y. — Today, Representative Elton Gallegly (R-CA/24) held a hearing before the Subcommittee on Immigration Policy and Enforcement regarding the "Keep Our Communities Safe Act of 2011" (H.R. 1932), legislation that House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX/21) introduced yesterday. The bill has no co-sponsors. Human Rights First urges Congress to reject amendments to the Immigration and Nationality Act that would broaden the scope of the Department of Homeland Security’s already vast power to detain asylum seekers and other immigrants in removal proceedings and limit the already inadequate safeguards presently in place to protect asylum seekers and other immigrants against arbitrary or prolonged detention. While this proposed legislation couches itself as providing for the detention of dangerous aliens and as a measure to “keep our communities safe,” its adverse impact would be felt by a great many persons who do not warrant that description and whose detention is unconnected to community safety. Congress should recognize the effect that any such amendments would have on asylum seekers and other vulnerable immigrants. “As a nation committed to the rule of law, the United States must guarantee basic due process protections designed to prevent asylum seekers and other immigrants from being subjected to arbitrary and prolonged detention,” said Annie Sovcik, Advocacy Counsel at Human Rights First. “Efforts to strip these basic protections run contrary to the fundamental principles of liberty and freedom that have made this country a beacon of hope for the persecuted around the world.” Human Rights First submitted the following statement for the hearing's record. Full text of H.R. 1932 can be found here.