City Bar Helps Defend Senate Immigration Reform Bill from Amendments Derailing Due Process and Detention Reforms

The New York City Bar Association, through its Committee on Immigration and Nationality Law, continues to assist Congressional deliberation of the immigration reform bill, the “Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act” (S. 744). As the Senate Judiciary Committee considered the bill, the City Bar rapidly analyzed and opposed 15 amendments filed to S. 744 that would have rolled back the bill’s essential due process and detention reforms, frustrated a fair path to legalization, and increased criminalization of immigration laws. None of the amendments that the City Bar opposed passed, including three introduced and debated openly by the Judiciary Committee. The City Bar’s analysis built upon its prior advocacy for appointed counsel and reduced detention in immigration reform, in two April 24th letters available here and here. First, in a letter dated May 13th, the City Bar opposed nine amendments that would have eliminated crucial “S. 744 reforms [reducing] cruel, costly, and unnecessary over-detention of immigrants and families who pose little risk,” and promoting alternatives to detention such as tracking bracelets and community-based supervision. Particularly, Senator Charles Grassley’s (R-IA) Amendment 47 would have struck due process protections for immigrant detainees such as bond hearings and time limits on detention. (As the City Bar previously pointed out, nine in ten Americans support time limits on detention before seeing a judge.)  Amendment 47 was defeated by a near-unanimous vote in the Judiciary Committee. Additionally, Senator Jeff Sessions’ (R-AL) Amendment 12 would have mandated a higher artificial minimum of $5,000 bond for certain immigrants, including asylum seekers. The City Bar opposed this amendment, arguing that “[h]igh bail is unfair to those without money.” Indeed, immigration bonds already are “far higher than those for criminal defendants, even though immigrants are less dangerous.” Amendment 12 also failed in the Judiciary Committee. An additional letter, dated May 29th, opposed six additional amendments that would have frustrated a fair path to legalization, struck immigrant integration initiatives, and increased the criminalization of typically civil immigration laws. Particularly, Senator Grassley’s Amendment 45 sought to expand criminal penalties, eliminate intent requirements, and remove exceptions for minors regarding crimes of illegal entry, reentry, and passport fraud. The City Bar called Amendment 45 “unnecessary,” and noted increased criminal enforcement would disproportionately increase the costs of immigration reform.  Amendment 45 was also defeated in the Judiciary Committee. The Committee on Immigration and Nationality Law will continue to analyze S. 744 as it moves to full Senate consideration. The letters can be read at the following links: