House Passes Border Security Bill
Washington, DC - On December 16, 2005, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Border Protection, Antiterrorism, and illegal Immigration Control Act of 2005 (HR 4437) with a vote of 239-182. The bill, introduced by House Judiciary Chairman James Sensenbrenner, Jr., incorporates border security legislation with new penalties for violators and new requirements on employers who hire non-citizens. However, immigrant right advocates and civil libertarians are calling the measure “one of most draconian anti-immigration bills introduced in recent times.”
While the bill directly impacts all immigrant communities in the United States, there are several provisions that may disproportionately affect Iranian nationals and their family members living in the United States.
Section 404 of the bill states that “Whenever the Secretary of Homeland Security determines that the government of a foreign country has denied or unreasonably delayed accepting an alien who is a citizen, subject, national, or resident of that country after the alien has been ordered removed, the Secretary, after consultation with the Secretary of State, may deny admission to any citizen, subject, national, or resident of that country until the country accepts the alien who was ordered removed.”
Ms. Raha Jorjani, Legal Representative at the Florence Immigrant and Refugee Rights Project, believes that Iranian Americans should pay close attention to HR 4437. “If passed into law, section 404 of the bill would deny admission to any citizen or resident of a country that does not have repatriation agreement with U.S. This means people from Iran,” Jorjani explains.
HR 4437 also makes illegal presence in the U.S., currently a civil offense, a criminal felony. In addition, the bill would allow the government to prosecute any individual who helps an undocumented person remain in the U.S. “This overly broad language puts at risk anyone who may know or suspect that someone is undocumented but does not turn them in,” says Ms. Jorjani.
Furthermore, HR 4437 also gives the government extraordinary powers to detain non-citizens indefinitely without proper review. According to the ACLU, “this could place many non-citizens in a legal black hole that effectively subjects them to life sentence after they have served a criminal sentence of limited duration. In some cases it could result in indefinite detention of non-citizens who have not been convicted of any crime, including those who have who have fled persecution or who cannot be deported because they would be tortured if returned.”
The U.S. Senate is expected to consider border security and immigration reform in February of 2006. Senate majority leader Bill Frist has indicated his plans of introducing a border security bill and use it as a base to debate guest worker programs. After the Senate convenes to discuss border security and immigration reform, the House and Senate will reconcile their differences in joint conference committee.