Patriot Act: Anti-Immigrant

by Rita Mandelenis on January 25, 2006

Supervisors Chris Daly, Ross Mirkarimi and Sophie Maxwell joined advocates for a rally in front of City Hall yesterday to make public that the Board of Supervisors condemned the“Border Protection, Antiterrorism, and Illegal Immigration Control Act of 2005.” San Francisco will not enforce any of the provisions, perhaps the most troubling of which being that anyone present illegally in the U.S. would be a criminal. The federal government can withhold funding to cities like San Francisco who will not participate.

Supervisor Chris Daly introduced the legislation recommitting San Francisco to “providing a safe, healthy and dignified place to live, regardless of immigration status.” He vowed that the City would continue to support the Day Labor Program, one of the city organizations who would be most impacted by the Act.

At the rally, immigrant rights activist Renee Saucedo said that the Board of Supervisors took a big step with the announcement. “This sends an important message to Washington: that we will not stop working with the immigrants in our community,” said Saucedo. “The support was strong today. There were at least 100 people from immigrant communities.”

Saucedo said that many of her main concerns are still up in the air right now. “We’re still not sure if congress will actually pass the bill or how strictly they will enforce it.”

Others involved with the immigrant community such as Hillary Ronen, an employment lawyer, believe the affects of this bill could be disastrous. “Employers already exploit immigrants,” said Ronen. “This phenomena is uncontrollable as is; there will be no way to recover.”

One provision of the bill HR4437 is that an “unlawful presence” in this country would be a felony charge, which would make it basically impossible for illegal immigrants to change their status. And those who assist illegal immigrants could be charged and punished with up to five years in prison.

“This is an enforcement only bill. It criminalizes people and it is simply impractical,” said Ronen.

Ronen also stated that the bill does not get at the core problem, which is the reasons immigrants need to leave their home countries to begin with. “There are economic conditions that force people to come to this country,” said Ronin. “Nobody is illegal because it is a desirable thing.”

Those seeking an asylum and are caught for any minor crime will be denied residency and citizenship. Anyone caught along the border who may be a victim of a crime, including children, will be detained and deported. Those who have served their time may be detained longer if they are defined as a “dangerous alien.” The Department of Homeland Security will have to build a 700-mile fence along the Southwest border at the places where the most immigrant death occurs. Also, immigrants may be deported rapidly, within 14 days of coming to the U.S., without going before a judge.

“Immigrants are not the same as criminals,” said Ronen. “These are basic human rights that could be denied.”

A lottery program that allows 50,000 immigrants into the country each year will be terminated.

On December 16, 2005 the House of Representatives passed the bill submitted by Republican James Sensenbrenner from Wisconsin and Chairman of the Judiciary Committee.

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