Saturday, October 14, 2006

What next for Lame Duck?

Now that the election is premenient in the minds of Congressional representatives, immigrant rights advocates are wondering what will happen in the lame duck session when politicians return after November 7. Some are hopeful that something can be worked out but others are not so sure.

The National Immigration Forum, for example, is not optimistic. Their Director Frank Sharry writes "After all, what are the chances the House Republican leadership, after spending six months trashing comprehensive immigration reform, will come back in November and enact comprehensive immigration reform? In fact, the more likely scenario is that House leaders will return determined to attach some or all of the sweeping enforcement-only measures rebuffed in September to must-pass appropriations measures."

As an example of what Frank is talking about, one need not look further than Senator Bill Frist's "Community Protection Against International Gangs Act" (S. 3946).

Under S.3946 an immigrant who never committed any crime whatsoever can be deported and denied immigration benefits if the Attorney General asserts that he has a "reason to believe" that the person is or was either a "member of" a gang, or participated in "activities" that promote a gang. This bill would have devastating consequences on immigrant children, families, and communities across the nation, and result in deporting youth to a country where they could face detention, torture, or even death.

The Rights Working Group has drafted a joint letter to the Senate that numerous immigrant rights organizations have signed onto.

In the letter, the Rights Working Group asserts "Effective anti-gang strategies include supporting youth in their efforts to leave gangs and protecting them from the possible life threatening repercussions, not labeling and punishing them for their status and for making the decision to leave. S.3946 would punish former gang members who have chosen to leave the gang and reform their lives, refusing them admission and deporting them to countries where they may face interrogation, torture, detention and even death.

S. 3946 fails to adequately protect children by subjecting them to the same penalties as adults. Our juvenile justice system and immigration jurisprudence have also always distinguished between child and adult offenders. S.3946 represents a sharp departure from our nation's traditional concern for protection and rehabilitation of youth."

Senators are slated to vote on this bill when they return to Washington in November.

ACTION STEP: You can contact your Senator today and tell him/her the following: "Please oppose S.3946. It is another misguided bill focused solely on enforcement for short-term political gain rather than addressing this country's need for immigration reform. I urge you to reject S.3946 and to support comprehensive, realistic immigration reform."

Contact Kerri Sherlock at the Rights Working Group ( and see if you can also send a copy of the letter to your Senators.