Immigration Reform Must Ensure Due Process

In testimony submitted to the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday, March 20, Wade Henderson, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, stressed the importance of ensuring due process for immigrants when considering reform legislation.

“As Congress continues its efforts to craft legislation that would overhaul our immigration policies, we could not be more grateful for the Committee’s interest in examining the devastating impact of the 1996 immigration reforms, and in considering ways to ensure due process and fairness throughout the system.,” said Henderson.

Though immigration is considered a civil matter, immigrants are more often treated as criminals. Since the implementation of the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (AEDPA) and the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 (IIRIRA), immigrants have been denied basic rights, like the right to an attorney, usually guaranteed in the American justice system.

“One of the most fundamental principles underlying our system of justice is that important decisions are made following a fair process,” Henderson stated in his testimony. “The concept of due process of law is so central to our national identity that we have long invoked it to distinguish our government from authoritarian regimes, and it has proven essential in developing the rule of law in emerging democracies around the world.”

According to Professor Paul Grussendorf, who testified at the hearing, fiscal year 2011 saw a record number of deportations, and those who remain in detention facilities here in the United States face harsh conditions and no access to legal counsel. Not even children or people with disabilities receive access to an attorney, and many immigrants do not have the opportunity to present their case in front of a judge.

“It is un-American to detain someone, send them to a remote facility where they have no contact with family, place them in legal proceedings they are often unable to comprehend, and not to provide counsel for them,” Grussendorf said.

The infographic above details the stark and unfair differences between the criminal and immigration justice systems, illustrating the importance of truly comprehensive immigration reform.