Letter to House of Representatives re: Restoration of Fairness in Immigration Act

April 29, 2002
Coalition Letter to the House
in Support of the Bipartisan “Restoration of Fairness in Immigration Act of 2002”


MS Word version available here.

April 29, 2002

Dear Representative:

We, the undersigned organizations, urge you to support and co-sponsor the Restoration of Fairness in Immigration Act of 2002, introduced today by Representatives John Conyers (D-MI) and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL). By doing so, you will signal your support for restoring basic American principles of justice, fairness and respect for families to American immigration law that were taken away by legislation passed in 1996, and your support for openness and fairness in immigration hearings. The 1996 immigration laws have had severe consequences that significantly affect American families, legal immigrants and individuals seeking to enter the United States legally, including refugees. Under these laws, people are routinely detained without bond, automatically deported without consideration for discretionary relief, restricted in their access to counsel, and barred from appealing to the courts. Some arriving refugees have been sent back to the countries from which they are fleeing without a hearing.

The 1996 laws also expanded the grounds of deportation for long-time legal residents, subjecting them to mandatory detention and deportation for relatively insignificant crimes that were not formerly deportable offenses. In many cases, low-level immigration officials act as judge and jury, and the federal courts lack the power to review these decisions and INS practices. Moreover, these laws are being applied retroactively. As a result, many legal residents who have lived in the United States for most of their lives and paid for their mistakes are being forced to pay twice, facing permanent expulsion for one-time offenses and youthful indiscretions that may have occurred many years ago. These long-term legal residents are subject to a “one size fits all” policy that allows them no avenue for discretionary relief and undermines any progress they have made in re-building their lives.

The 1996 immigration laws do not respect the fundamental principles of fairness and due process that are a cornerstone of our American system of justice and which our Constitution affords to every person within our borders, including immigrants. Many thousands of hard-working American families have been torn apart because of these harsh and arbitrary laws, and many more are at risk until the laws are changed.

The Restoration of Fairness in Immigration Act of 2002 does not give anyone who has violated the law a right to remain in the United States. Rather, it provides legal immigrants with a meaningful day in court, allowing an individualized decision on whether relief is warranted, and ensures that changes in the law do not retroactively change the rules under which legal residents have been operating.

Finally, the Restoration of Fairness in Immigration Act of 2002 requires the government to provide basic information about the non-citizens it has detained, and keep immigration hearings open to the public. Public scrutiny plays an essential role in ensuring against government abuse in times of crisis, and makes our country stronger.

American families that include immigrants we have welcomed into our country deserve and need our support now more than ever. As INS Commissioner James Ziglar has noted, on September 11 our country was attacked, not by immigrants who come to this country to build new lives, but by terrorists posing as tourists and business visitors. While improvements in border security are needed, the harsh laws passed in 1996 went after the wrong targets.

Please help our country stay true to its principles of justice, fairness and family values by supporting the Restoration of Fairness in Immigration Act of 2002. It is time to do away with the serious injustices of the 1996 immigration laws and ensure an open and accountable immigration hearing process.

Sincerely yours,

African Community Center (Denver, CO)
African Immigrants & Refugees Foundation
Al-Fatiha Foundation
American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee
American Civil Liberties Union
American Immigration Lawyers Association
Arab American Institute
Asian American Coalition (Georgia)
Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund
Asian Law Caucus
Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance, AFL-CIO
Asian Pacific American Legal Center
Asociación Salvadoreña Americana de Virginia (ASAV)
Bowling Green International Center
Bridging the Gap Project
Cambodian Mutual Assistance Association of Greater Lowell, Inc.
Catholic Charities Immigration Legal Services (Washington, DC)
Catholic Charities Refugee & Immigrant Services
Center for Constitutional Rights
Central American Resource Center (Los Angeles, CA)
Centro Salvadoreno (Hempstead, NY)
Chinese-American Planning Council (New York, NY)
Chinese for Affirmative Action
Citizens & Immigrants for Equal Justice (CIEJ)
Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles
Council on American-Islamic Relations
Diversity Village
Don Bosco Community Center (Kansas City, MO)
El Centro Hispanoamericano (Plainfield, NJ)
El Centro Latino (Carrboro, NC)
Fifth Avenue Committee (Brooklyn, NY)
First Amendment Foundation
Friends Committee on National Legislation
Heartland Alliance for Human Needs & Human Rights (Chicago, IL)
Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS)
High Country AMIGOS (Boone, NC)
Hispanic Task Force for York County
Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (Chicago, IL)
Immigrant and Refugee Rights Project, Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs
Immigrant Defense Project, New York State Defenders Association
Immigrant Legal Resource Center (ILRC)
Immigration and Refugee Services of America
Institute for New Americans
International Institute of Akron
International Institute of Boston
International Institute of Buffalo, NY
International Institute of Connecticut
International Institute of Los Angeles
International Institute of New Jersey
International Institute of Rhode Island
International Institute of San Francisco
Jewish Community Action (St. Paul, MN)
Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago
Jewish Vocational Service – Kansas City
LAMP – Language Access Metro Project (St. Louis, MO)
Liberian National Advocacy Commission South Eastern Region (Marietta, GA)
Lutheran Family Services (Greensboro, NC)
Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy (MIRA) Coalition
Massachusetts Law Reform Institute
Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund
Migration and Refugee Services, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops
Multiracial Activist and Abolitionist Examiner
National Asian Pacific American Legal Consortium
National Association of Korean Americans, NY Chapter
National Black Police Association
National Coalition for Haitian Rights
National Committee Against Repressive Legislation (NCARL)
National Council of La Raza
National Immigration Forum
National Immigration Law Center
National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild
National Korean American Service & Education Consortium (NAKASEC)
National Lawyers Guild
National Legal Aid and Defender Association
Nationalities Service Center
NOW Legal Defense and Education Fund
Open Society Policy Center
Pacific Gateway Center
People for the American Way
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)
Privacyactivism.org
Rocky Mountain Survivors Center (Denver, CO)
Salvadoran American National Network (SANN)
Southeast Asia Resource Action Center
Supporting Immigrant and Refugee Families Initiative, Spring Institute for International Studies (Denver, CO)
Union of Needletrades, Industrial and Textile Employees (UNITE)
Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations, Washington Office for Faith in Action
Vermont Refugee Resettlement Program
Young Korean-American Service & Education Center (YKASEC)
Youth Co-op

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.