There has been a lot of rhetoric on both sides of the issue regarding the current “immigration reform bill” that the Senate has taken up, but one thing you likely haven’t heard about at all is the scope and breadth of power the massive 850-page-plus measure contains. Simply put, if it becomes law, it will give the Department of Homeland Security near-dictatorial powers.
Sen. Jeff Sessions, an Alabama Republican, has entered a letter into the congressional record from law enforcement personnel around the country who are warning S.744, officially titled the “Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act,” would grant sweeping, discretionary powers to “political appointees” – bureaucrats – while stripping law enforcement of authority.
The letter, from the National Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Council of the American Federal of Government Employees Affiliated with AFL-CIO, states:
Congress can and must take decisive steps to limit the discretion of political appointees and empower ICE and CBP to perform their respective missions and enforce the laws enacted by Congress. Rather than limiting the power of those political appointees within DHS, S. 744 provides them with nearly unlimited discretion, which will serve only to further cripple the law enforcement missions of these agencies.
The members warn that the bill conveys to DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano “virtually unlimited discretion to waiver” prohibitions on getting legal status, such as previous deportations or criminal activity:
This same section (Section 2101 of S. 744) gives the Secretary of Homeland Security virtually unlimited discretion to waive any manner of crimes that would otherwise make an individual ineligible for legal status – for such expansive reasons as family unity, humanitarian purposes, or what the Secretary believes is in the public interest.
The letter continues:
At least two of these standards appear undefined by S. 744 or current law, providing political appointees with broad authority to establish their own definitions of these terms and pardon criminal acts under almost any circumstance.
The bill states that individuals who have previously been deported or otherwise removed from the country are ineligible to apply for legal status. However, the Secretary is given the ‘sole and unreviewable discretion’ to waive that ineligibility for large classes of qualifying aliens.
CNSNews.com noted that in seven instances, the measure grants “unreviewable” powers (see them here).
“Congress can and must take decisive steps to limit the discretion of political appointees and empower ICE and CBP to perform their respective missions and enforce the laws enacted by Congress. Rather than limiting the power of those political appointees within DHS, S. 744 provides them with nearly unlimited discretion, which will serve only to further cripple the law enforcement missions of these agencies,” the letter continues.
Crafters of the letter went on to conclude that ICE agents would essentially become “powerless” to protect the general public, or be able to perform their duties as required, if the bill passes the House.
“If this legislation were enacted tomorrow, ICE officers would continue to be powerless to effectively enforce our nation’s laws and provide for public safety as S. 744 does nothing to end these dangerous agency- and department-level directives,” the letter said.
Oh, and there’s a privacy concern as well UPDATE: Here’s another reason to oppose the measure, according to Wired:
The immigration reform measure the Senate began debating yesterday would create a national biometric database of virtually every adult in the U.S., in what privacy groups fear could be the first step to a ubiquitous national identification system.
As you probably guessed, this little Fourth Amendment violation is buried in the hundreds of pages of text and innocuously named (in this instance, the requirement is called a “phone tool”).
The provision called for “a massive federal database administered by the Department of Homeland Security and containing names, ages, Social Security numbers and photographs of everyone in the country with a driver’s license or other state-issued photo ID,” Wired reported.
No agency of the U.S. government deserves or should have this kind of unchecked power. And along that line, our laws should not be several hundred pages long. The founders believed laws should be simple and straightforward, not so complex they couldn’t be read and understood by regular citizens who then have to live under them.