Legislative Attempts to Curb Iranian Immigration and Citizenship in the 109th Congress
Washington, DC - The recent flurry of immigration legislation includes several bills that will potentially impact Iranian immigrants. The Border Protection, Antiterrorism, and Illegal Immigration Control Act of 2005 and the CLEAR ACT of 2005 are two bills that are currently being considered in the United States Congress that would impose obstacles on Iranians seeking to immigrate to the United States. Congress is also reviewing a bill that would impose sanctions on dual citizens, which may affect permanent residents that want to become naturalized U.S. citizens. In the midst of these attempts to curb immigration and dual citizenship, there is also legislation before Congress to restore the civil liberties of detained immigrants. We have provided a summary of these legislative efforts below. For more information, visit the Library of Congress legislative database.
H.R. Bill 4437 – BORDER PROTECTION, ANTITERRORISM, AND ILLEGAL IMMIGRATION CONTROL ACT of 2005
• The U.S. House of Representatives passed this bill on December 16, 2005 with a vote of 239-182. If this bill were to become law without any change in its current text, it would have a detrimental affect on Iranian nationals attempting to immigrate to America and their family members living in the United States.
• First and foremost this bill would make the act of “illegal presence” in the U.S., whether it was intended or not, a criminal felony. This legislation would then take a further step in allowing the government to prosecute any individual who helped an undocumented person remain in the U.S. For example, if an Iranian national was here on a student visa and the visa then expired, if that Iranian had family members who were U.S. residents or citizens, those family members could conceivably be prosecuted for “aiding and abetting a felon” if they failed to turn the student in to the authorities.
• Section 404 of this bill would deny admission to any citizen or resident of a country that does not have a repatriation agreement with the U.S.—which includes Iran. In essence, this would mean that Iranian nationals seeking admission to the U.S. would be denied admission to the U.S. if Iran refused to deny repatriation for any of its other citizens at any other time for any reason at all.
• This bill would also give the U.S. the power to detain non-citizens indefinitely without proper review. If the text of the bill remains unchanged and it becomes law, non-citizens can be held indefinitely after serving the entirety of a criminal sentence, and even non-citizens who have not committed a crime at all but simply seek safe haven in the U.S. may be detained indefinitely.
See American Civil Liberties Union, Memo to Interested Persons Regarding Concerns in H.R. 4437, the "Border Protection, Antiterrorism, and Illegal Immigration Control Act of 2005,available at: http://www.aclu.org/natsec/gen/22371leg20051207.html (last visited April 27, 2006); see also, http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/D?c109:1:./temp/~c1098aGfpR:: (last visited May 8, 2006)
H.R. Bill 3137 – CLEAR LAW ENFORCEMENT FOR CRIMINAL ALIEN
• This bill widely expands the authority of immigration enforcement to officials at the state and local level. Specifically, “state and local law enforcement personnel are fully authorized to investigate, apprehend, or remove aliens in the United States . . . in the enforcement of U.S. immigration laws.”
• This Act would shoulder local law enforcement officials with a huge burden. As attorney Sheela Murthy has pointed out, there are many federal immigration officials who do not fully understand how to implement existing immigration regulations. The difficulties for local law enforcement would be much greater.
• Furthermore, the complexity of immigration laws would create an enormous potential for abuse by local officials. The risk that many law enforcement officers would arbitrarily employ "racial profiling" in their enforcement of immigration laws would be great. As Congressman Joe Baca (D-CA) stated: "They could arbitrarily select any individual. People like me; I'm dark-skinned. And they'll ask me for identification." Because police are ill-equipped to determine who has violated a civil immigration law (due to the administrative nature of the violations), some will inevitably stop and question people of certain ethnic backgrounds, who speak certain languages, or who have accents in English. Anticipating this, the bill grants civil immunity from lawsuits for officers who enforce immigration laws.
• The effects of this bill will most likely conflict with International law, which provides that a foreign national has a right to speak with his native embassy regarding his detention. Because many local officials will lack expertise in International law, it is highly probably that they will not afford foreign nationals that right.
• There is also serious concern that the CLEAR Act could result in undue hardship for immigrant communities, as severe punishment could be administered for minor technical violations of immigration regulations. The Act also requires non-citizens who are in the United States illegally to be imprisoned for one year, to be fined, and to be subject to forfeiture of all their assets.
• The bill was introduced by Representative Charlie Norwood (R-GA).