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Civil Libertarians Worry About Details of Immigration Reform

In light of the rally this afternoon that I wrote about earlier, the American Civil Liberties Union is cautioning that comprehensive immigration reform proposals should be careful not to compromise civil liberties.

“The ACLU is encouraged by the willingness of congressional leaders to lay out details of immigration reform, but we strongly oppose any reforms that would unnecessarily violate the privacy of Americans,” said Michael Macleod-Ball, Acting Director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office, in a statement issued today. “We urge lawmakers to reject any proposed immigration reform measures that include a biometric national worker ID system or a universal compulsory electronic employment verification system. These systems come at enormous cost to the American public and do little to prevent the hiring of undocumented workers. It is unacceptable to force Americans to be fingerprinted and photographed in order to work.”

The idea of a national ID and employment verification system is something immigration reform advocates often include as a way to appease critics of a comprehensive bill that would legalize some currently illegal immigrants. But the ACLU and other civil liberties groups have long opposed it.

Today the ACLU also criticized the controversial portion of the immigration laws that allow, under section 287(g), local law enforcement to enforce federal immigration law, which has led to “racial and ethnic profiling across the country” and discouraged immigrants from cooperating with police, as I’ve discussed in previous posts. The Department of Homeland Security under Janet Napolitano has actually expanded the 287(g) program, despite the documented problems.

Congress should also end the prolonged detention of illegal immigrants who pose no risks, allow immigration judges to consider U.S. citizen children and spouses when deciding deportation cases, and allow the courts to ensure fair immigration hearings, the ACLU said today. DHS recently announced some reforms to immigration detention, which included a promise to consider alternatives to detention for illegal immigrants who aren’t considered dangerous. Those who advocate cracking down on illegal immigrants, however, strongly oppose letting them go free until their deportation hearings, arguing that there’s little incentive for them to show up to immigration court if they might be deported.

As for what the ACLU wants to see in a comprehensive immigration reform bill, here’s the group’s statement on that.

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