Coalition Letter on Immigration Reform

March 6, 2006

Dear Senator,

We, the undersigned 84 organizations and 117 individuals are writing to urge you to oppose provisions in the “Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2006” which the Senate Judiciary is debating this week that would harm various vulnerable populations, including asylum-seekers, children, trafficking victims, and others seeking protection in the United States. No matter what your position is on a temporary guest worker program or border enforcement, we can and should all agree that the United States must uphold its legal commitment and moral obligation to provide refuge to those fleeing persecution or abuse in their home countries. As written, provisions included in Titles II and VII would further harm these already at risk individuals. For example, the bill would:

Limit Access to the Federal Courts

  • Sections 701 and 707 would prevent many refugees from getting mistaken asylum denials corrected by the federal courts, leading them to be deported back into the hands of their persecutors. By shifting jurisdiction over all new petitions for review of removal orders and appeals of district court orders in habeas cases to  the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, with only a minimal increase in staffing, section 701 would overburden a court with no exposure to immigration cases and lead to hasty and flawed decision-making. The provision would limit physical access to the courts and increase the difficulty and expense of securing counsel, preventing many vulnerable non-citizens from seeking federal court review. These changes would fall particularly hard on detained populations, including women, children and families, many of whom already go unrepresented at the administrative level.
  • Section 706 requires an applicant for withholding of removal to prove that her race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political  opinion was or would be “one central reason” for her persecution. When this provision was added to the asylum statute by the REAL ID Act, many organizations and advocates expressed concern that it would make it harder for legitimate refugees to get protection and increasing their chances of being returned to persecution. This same concern applies in the context of withholding of removal.

Criminalize Asylum Seekers, Trafficking Victims, and Other Vulnerable Populations

  • Section 206 makes it a crime to be knowingly out of status. This would criminalize refugees who fall out of status while preparing their asylum applications, trafficking victims who remain in the U.S. against their will, battered women whose abuser controls their immigration status and children who do not understand their immigration status.
  • Section 203 strips DHS and DOJ of discretion to grant a waiver to refugees and asylees who have been convicted of an aggravated felony but show compelling reasons why they should be allowed to adjust their status to permanent resident.
  • Sections 208, 209 and 221 would subject vulnerable individuals who use fraudulent passports or documents to enter the United States to imprisonment for up to 15 years, thereby barring them from relief. Since the bill does not provide for an exception for refugees, children, or other vulnerable groups, this means that an asylum seeker, for example, who was unable to obtain a passport from the government that was persecuting him and fled to the United States on a borrowed document could be barred from asylum and withholding of removal.
  • Section 205 expands the scope of the activities considered “alien-smuggling” such that it could be illegal for individuals or organizations to assist an undocumented immigrant, subject to a very limited exception for religious organizations that provide room and board to undocumented immigrants serving as missionaries.

Provide for Prolonged or Indefinite Detention of Asylum Seekers and Others

  • Section 202 allows for the prolonged detention of asylum seekers and others whose cases are on appeal to the federal courts, and the indefinite detention of immigrants who have been given final orders of removal but cannot be removed. Indigent immigrants who are unable to obtain adequate representation in their removal proceedings are at particular risk for such treatment.

We recognize and support the need to reform our nation’s immigration laws. However, this can and should be accomplished in a thoughtful and deliberate manner that does not harm refugees, battered women, and other vulnerable populations.

Many of the undersigned organizations and individuals will also be writing to you separately to discuss these and other issues of concern with this bill. Thank you for your consideration.



Advocates for Survivors of Torture and Trauma
American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee
American Friends Service Committee
American Immigration Lawyers Association
American Jewish Committee
Amnesty International – USA
Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF)
American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)
Break the Chain Campaign
Brewster Center Domestic Violence Services, Inc
Boat People SOS
Capital Area Immigrants’ Rights Coalition
Catholic Daughters of the Americas, Corning NY
Center for Battered Women's Legal Services
Sanctuary for Families
Center for Gender & Refugee Studies,
University of California,
Hastings College of the Law
Center for National Security Studies
Center for Victims of Torture
Center for Women Policy Studies
Christian Legal Society
Church Women United
Church Women United of Chemung County (NY)
Church Women United of NYS
Church World Service Immigration and Refugee Program
Cornell University Law School
Asylum/CAT Appeals Clinic
The Door – A Center of Alternatives, Inc.
Empire Justice Center
Episcopal Migration Ministries
Ethiopian Community Development Council, Inc.
Fairfax County Privacy Council
Florida Immigrant Advocacy Center
Georgia Coalition Against Domestic Violence
Heartland Alliance for Human Needs & Human Rights
Hispanic Development Corporation, Newark
Human Rights First
Human Rights Watch
Immigrant Law Center of Minnesota
Immigrant Legal Advocacy Project
Immigration Equality
Institute for the Study of Psychosocial Trauma, Palo Alto, CA
Interfaith Refugee Action Team Elizabeth (IRATE)
International Institute of the East Bay
International Rescue Committee
Iowa Coalition Against Domestic Violence
Jesuit Refugee Service – USA
Jubilee Campaign USA
Kurdish Human Rights Watch, Inc.
Ladies of Charity of Chemung County (NY)
Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights – San Francisco
Legal Momentum
Legal Services for Children – San Francisco
Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service
Maine Civil Liberties Union
Midwest Immigrant & Human Rights Center
Migrant and Refugee Cultural Support, Inc (MIRECS)
Minnesota Advocates for Human Rights
Morning Star House Inc.
The Multiracial Activist
Na Loio- Immigrant Rights and Public Interest Legal Center
National Immigration Forum
Network Against Human Trafficking
Northwest Immigrant Rights Project
Past Regents' Club, Diocese of Rochester (NY)
Pax Christi Maine
Pax Christi, Upstate NY
Peace Action Maine
Pennsylvania Immigration Resource Center
Physicians for Human Rights
Political Asylum Project of Austin
Prison Legal News
Rocky Mountain Survivors Center
Social Justice Commission of Sacred Heart – St. Dominic Church
Portland, ME
Safe Horizon
Safehouse Progressive Alliance for Nonviolence
Tahirih Justice Center
Unitarian Universalist Service Committee
University of Connecticut School of Law
Asylum and Human Rights Clinic
U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants
Vermont Refugee Assistance
Washington Defender Association's – Immigration Project
Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs
Immigrant and Refugee Rights Project
Women Empowered Against Violence, Inc. (WEAVE)
Women’s Commission for Refugee Women and Children
Women’s Law Project
World Relief

Individuals *

Kerry Abrams
Associate Professor of Law
University of Virginia School of Law

Muneer I. Ahmad
Associate Professor of Law
American University Washington College of Law

Deborah Anker
Clinical Professor of Law, Harvard Law School
Director, Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinic

Lisa E. Bagley
Shearman & Sterling LLP

Theresa E. Barrett
LIRS Ambassador

Jennifer Barton
Portland Organizing to Win Economic Rights

Jon Bauer
Clinical Professor of Law and Director,
Asylum and Human Rights Clinic
University of Connecticut School of Law

Monique Beadle, Refugee Project Director
World Organization for Human Rights USA

Eva M. Berbegal

Jacqueline Bhabha
Executive Director
University Committee on Human Rights Studies
Harvard University

Lisa Block
Safety Network Community Organizer, Southern District

Linda Bosniak
Professor, Rutgers University School of Law

Prof. Richard A. Boswell
Univ. of California, Hastings College of the Law

Susan Bowyer, Managing Attorney
International Institute of the East Bay
Oakland, CA

Mary Brittingham
Associate Professor of Clinical Law
George Washington University Law Center

Elizabeth M. Bruch
Associate Professor of Law
Valparaiso University School of Law

Susan Bryant
CUNY School of Law

Michelle Caldera
William R. Davis Clinical Teaching Fellow
UConn Law School
Asylum & Human Rights Clinic

Simone Campbell-Scott

Janet M. Calvo
Professor of Law CUNY School of Law

Stacy Caplow
Professor of Law and Director of Clinical Education
Brooklyn Law School

Herb Castillo, Executive Director
International Institute of the East Bay
Oakland, CA

Jennifer M. Chacon
Acting Professor
U.C. Davis School of Law

Michael J. Churgin
Raybourne Thompson Centennial Professor
University of Texas School of Law

Amanda Coleman
Ph.D. Candidate, Cultural Anthropology
New School for Social Research

Sue Colussy

Rev. Barb Dinnen
Las Americas Comunidad de Fe/Trinity United Methodist Church

Catherine J. Douglass

Troy E. Elder
Clinical Assistant Professor of Law
Carlos A. Costa Immigration and Human Rights Clinic
FIU College of Law

Thomas Esparza, Jr.

James P. Eyster
Assistant Clinical Professor of Law
Ave Maria Law School

Christine Feagan

Todd D. Fernow
Prof of Law
Univ. of CT School of Law

Niels W. Frenzen
Clinical Associate Professor
University of Southern California
Gould School of Law

Maryellen Fullerton
Professor of Law
Brooklyn Law School

Paula Galowitz
Clinical Professor of Law
New York University School of Law

Dr. Frances Geteles, psychologist

Pamela Goldberg

Anne Goldstein
Assistant Clinical Professor of Law
University of Connecticut School of Law

Catherine Griebel

Mrs. Talat Hamdani
Mother of:
Mohammad Salam Hamdani

Kim Harrison

Michael G. Heyman
The John Marshall Law School

Dina Francesca Haynes
Visiting Associate Professor of Law
University of Nevada at Las Vegas

Barbara Hines
Clinical Professor of Law
Immigration Clinic
University of Texas School of Law

Matthew I. Hirsch
Adjunct Professor
Widener University School of Law

Susan C. Hopkins, Esq.

Carly Hutchinson

Lauren Huston

Kate Jastram
Lecturer in Residence
Boalt Hall School of Law
University of California

Harvey Kaplan (attorney)

Allen S. Keller, M.D.
Director, Bellevue/NYU Program for Survivors of Torture

Nancy Kelly
Clinical Supervisor, Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinic

Anne Kemper

Jillian N. Kong-Sivert, Attorney at Law
Becker, Hadeed, Kellog & Berry, P.C

Hilary Kopple

Lewis Kurlantzick
Professor of Law
University of Connecticut School of Law

Margaret Lamb

Narita Maraj

Hugh Macgill
Oliver Ellsworth Research Professor
Director, Int'l Graduate Studies
University of Connecticut School of Law

M. Isabel Medina
Ferris Family Professor of Law
Loyola University New Orleans
School of Law

Kathleen A. Moccio
Director, Pro Bono Development
American Immigration Lawyers Association

Prof. Nancy Morawetz
Professor of Clinical Law
New York University School of Law

Thomas Morawetz
Tapping Reeve Professor of Law and Ethics
University of Connecticut School of Law

Riikka E. Morrill
Accredited Rep/Paralegal
Immigrant Legal Advocacy Project

Prof. Karen Musalo
Univ. of California, Hastings College of the Law

Jonathan Robert Nelson, Esq.,
New York, New York

Alizabeth Newman
Director Immigrant Initiatives
CUNY School of Law

Barbara A. Niess, MPA, MSW
SafeHouse Center

Michael A. Olivas
University of Houston Law Center

Melanie Orhant, Esq.
Anti-Human Trafficking Consultant

Carson Osberg

Maureen O'Sullivan (attorney)

Catherine Paplin

Roy Petty
Law Offices of Roy Petty

Rev. Antoinette Pezet

Michele Pistone
Professor and Director, Clinical Program & CARES Clinic Villanova University School of Law

Dianne Post

Kathi Pugh
Pro Bono Program Counsel
Morrison & Foerster

Jaya Ramji-Nogales

Anne Rapkin

Nancy Lynn Robertson
Staff Attorney/Public Policy Coordinator
Iowa Coalition Against Domestic Violence

Susan Roche, Esq.
Immigrant Legal Advocacy Project

Cristina Rodriguez
Assistant Professor of Law
NYU School of Law

Ted Ruthizer
Lecturer in Law at Columbia Law School

Lauren Sachs

David Saphire

Ragini Shah
Clinical Staff Attorney
Child Advocacy and Immigration Clinic
Columbia University Law School

Andrew I. Schoenholtz
Georgetown University Law Center

Philip G. Schrag
Professor of Law
Georgetown University

Barbara Schwartz
Clinical Professor
University of Iowa College of Law

Anita Sinha, Advocacy Director
International Institute of the East Bay
Oakland, CA

Deborah S. Smith
Reynolds, Motl and Sherwood, PLLP
(Adjunct Professor, The University of Montana School of Law)

Charles Song and Sunny Lee
Santa Monica, Ca

Nancy Spencer

James H. Stark
Professor of Law and Director of the Mediation Clinic
University of Connecticut School of Law

Kurt A. Strasser
Phillip I. Blumberg Professor
University of Connecticut Law School

Carlina Tapia-Ruano
President-Elect AILA
Minsky, McCormick & Hallagan, PC, Principal

Margaret Taylor
Professor of Law
Wake Forest University School of Law

Rev. Linda Theophilus,
Emmanuel Lutheran Church of Eastmont

David B. Thronson
Associate Professor of Law
Co-Director, Immigration Clinic
Boyd School of Law at UNLV

Bernard Trujillo
U. Wisconsin Law School

Diane Uchimiya
Assistant Professor of Law
University of La Verne College of Law

Anne Underwood, Esq.

Stephen Utz
Professor of Law
University of Connecticut School of Law

Jesse Leah Vear
Portland Organizing to Win Economic Rights

Athena Viscusi, LICSW
Clinical Director
Neighbors Consejo

Douglas P. Wachholz, Esq.
Centro Latino de Abogados

Shoba Sivaprasad Wadhia
Adjunct Professor of Law
Washington College of Law at American University

Jonathan Weinberg
Professor of Law
Wayne State University

Virgil Wiebe
Associate Professor of Law
University of St. Thomas School of Law

John Willshire-Carrera
Clinical Supervisor, Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinic

Arthur D. Wolf
Professor of Law
Western New England College

Sigrun Wolf

Maria Woltjen
Immigrant Children's Advocacy Project

Sister Janet Yurkanin
Migration and Refugee Services
Diocese of Trenton, NJ

Joan Zorza

* Institutional affiliations listed for individual signatories are stated for purposes of identification only.

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