Washingtonâ€“ The Asian American Justice Center (AAJC) condemns the passage of H.R. 4437, the "Border Protection, Antiterrorism, and Illegal Immigration Control Act of 2005," by the House of Representatives. It was passed late Friday, Dec. 16, by a vote of 239 to 182.
"This bill, if enacted, will have a disproportionate and devastating impact on the Asian Pacific American community," said J. Traci Hong, director of AAJC's immigration program. H.R. 4437 will not become law unless and until it is also agreed to by the Senate and signed by the President into law. "We hope that the Senate will reject the excessive, enforcement-only approach of H.R. 4437 but instead offer comprehensive and positive solutions that will really fix the broken immigration system."
AAJC is leading 38 national and local Asian Pacific American organizations in opposing H.R. 4437. "This bill is the latest and the most egregious in a long line of increasingly harsh, anti-immigrant, enforcement-only legislations that has not and will not fix our broken immigration system," the organizations said in a joint statement released last week.
Among others, H.R. 4437 contains many troubling provisions that would:
Criminalize millions of immigrants, including lawful permanent residents and legal nonimmigrants who accrue technical violations of immigration regulations. H.R. 4437 would make federal criminals of approximately 1 million undocumented immigrants from Asia currently living in the U.S. Furthermore, noncitizens who are in the U.S. legally but commit technical violations of immigration law or regulations â€“ such as lawful permanent residents who fail to report a change of address to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) within ten days of moving, as well as university students on F-1 visas who drop below a full course load, or H-1B workers who take too long in between jobs â€“ would also become criminals under this law.
Criminalize U.S. citizens and legal immigrants who come into contact with undocumented immigrants in their daily lives. H.R. 4437 would so expand the scope of crimes related to smuggling, transporting, and harboring undocumented immigrants that U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents who interact with undocumented immigrants in their professional or personal lives would run the risk of being prosecuted for the federal criminal offenses of smuggling, transporting, and/or harboring undocumented immigrants, even if they did not in fact know that they were dealing with undocumented immigrants.
Mount an unprecedented attack on lawful permanent residents who are applying for U.S. citizenship. H.R. 4437 would greatly curtail the jurisdiction of federal courts to review DHS's actions (or lack thereof) on naturalization applications. This would give DHS unfettered power to unreasonably delay or to deny U.S. citizenship to law-abiding permanent residents for arbitrary reasons.
Fortunately, an amendment to H.R. 4437 â€“ introduced by Representative J.D. Hayworth (R-AZ) â€“ to eliminate the ability of U.S. citizens to petition for their brothers and sisters was withdrawn at the last minute. "If this amendment had passed, it would have barred the reunification of many Asian American U.S. citizens and their siblings who have waited for years to immigrate legally to the U.S.," said Hong.
The Senate is expected to take up immigration reform in early 2006. "If passed, H.R. 4437 will render the broken immigration system even more dysfunctional," Hong said. "We hope that the Senate will have the courage to do what it really takes to fix the broken immigration system â€“ pass comprehensive immigration reform."
The AAJC and its allies noted that, contrary to many news reports, the White House strongly supported House passage of H.R. 4437.
A copy of the full statement of AAJC and the 38 local and national Asian American organizations can be downloaded here.