BALTIMORE - Today, the U.S. Senate voted 68-32 to pass the immigration reform bill, S.744. While far from perfect, the legislation nonetheless represents an historic advance. It includes a path to citizenship for aspiring citizens and an expedited pathway for DREAMers. The bill also includes positive reforms on immigration detention, access to counsel, and the immigration court system. For these reasons, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Maryland applauds passage of the bill despite our deep reservations about several of its provisions.
While the ACLU is pleased that the immigration reform process is moving forward, the organization strongly condemns the extreme border enforcement provisions that were added to the bill during the past week. These provisions are costly and unnecessary and will predictably lead to civil and human rights violations along the Southwest border. The ACLU will continue to work with Congress to remedy these flaws and to ensure the passage of just and humane immigration reform.
On Tuesday, Senator Ben Cardin (D-Maryland) spoke forcefully on the Senate floor in favor of immigration reform. He condemned the costly and ineffective border amendments and highlighted several important issues that could have been improved had there been more room for consideration of amendments. Among those were the importance of including a ban on racial profiling and a ban on country of origin-based screening, and the importance of ensuring that private prisons, which house about half of ICE detainees, are governed by the same FOIA rules as public prisons. He also noted the importance of introducing some flexibility to the rules about deportation for very old, minor convictions, and to the employment rules in the bill by recognizing volunteer community service as an acceptable substitute for employment.
"We applaud Senator Cardin for his strong commitment to immigration reform and for his efforts to make the bill more just and humane," said Sirine Shebaya, an attorney directing the ACLU of Maryland's immigrants' rights advocacy. "Senator Cardin played a leadership role on key questions affecting aspiring citizens and all Americans and helped to defeat threats to fundamental rights being offered as amendments to the bill. As the bill moves to the House, we look to our representatives to play a similar role in their chamber and to help ensure the passage of immigration reform we can all be proud of."