Civil Rights Coalition Urges Senate to Reject House-Passed Waiver of “All Laws”

Media 04.12,05

Washington, DC – The Leadership Conference on Civil Rights (LCCR), the nation’s oldest, largest and most diverse civil and human rights coalition, today urged the U.S. Senate to oppose an unprecedented House-passed proposal that would give the Secretary of Homeland Security the unfettered discretion to waive “all laws” that he believes might hamper border control efforts. The provision was included as part of the REAL ID Act (H.R. 418), which was recently tacked on to a bill to fund U.S. troops in Iraq and tsunami relief efforts (H.R. 1268).

In a letter sent to the Senate today, LCCR and 25 other organizations stated that the waiver language “would take us down an especially slippery slope. This provision would permit the Secretary of Homeland Security to waive ‘all laws’ that the Secretary – at his own discretion, and without judicial review -determines would interfere with the construction of barriers and roads along our nation’s borders.”

Section 102 of the bill states that the Secretary “shall have the authority to waive, and shall waive, all laws such Secretary, in such Secretary’s sole discretion, determines necessary to ensure expeditious construction of the barriers and roads under this section.” The sweeping language would cover activity anywhere along or near U.S. borders, and explicitly shuts federal and state courts out of theprocess.

“Think about what that could mean,” LCCR executive director Wade Henderson added. “Under this law, the DHS Secretary could decide that immigration laws stand in the way of the prompt construction of a barrier to keep undocumented immigrants out of the country, and could hire undocumented immigrants to build the wall. He could decide that labor or civil rights laws no longer apply. He could even decide that criminal laws are too much of a burden to follow. Under the REAL ID Act, nothing short of impeachment could stop him.”

The letter points out that, contrary to reports in the media and even statements by Congressional supporters, the waiver is not merely limited to “a single fencing project along the San Diego border. Rather, it would apply to all areas along our borders with both Mexico and Canada, as well as our coastlines. Never before has any federal agency or official been provided with such a blanket exemption from the rule of law.”

“Section 102 would not only be unprecedented and unjustified, but as the history of the United States – as well as that of other nations – clearly shows us, it would be a dangerous level of power to give to one government official,” LCCR concluded.