- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 19, 2004

Key congressional Republicans introduced a bill yesterday to cut down the number and types of appeals available to criminal aliens before they are deported.

Currently, aliens who have committed major felonies have more chances to ask for judicial review, thereby delaying deportation, than an alien guilty only of overstaying a visa, the lawmakers said.

“We need to correct the absurdity of giving criminals more rights than noncriminals,” said Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Orrin G. Hatch, Utah Republican and chief Senate sponsor of the bill.

“A lot of these people, they file appeals, they file for habeas, and then they blend into the community and are lost,” he said.

The bill applies to aliens who have committed aggravated felonies. It would require them to exhaust the administration review process, including a final order of removal from the Bureau of Immigration Appeals. They can then have that decision reviewed by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit and appeal that to the Supreme Court.

A 2001 Supreme Court decision gave criminal aliens the right to a district court habeas corpus petition, which requires authorities to show cause for holding a person. The justices’ decision also grants the right to have a federal appeals court review the removal order.

The sponsors said that has resulted in an explosion of litigation, delaying criminals’ deportation.

Mr. Hatch said that in 1995, 403 immigration habeas corpus petitions were filed, and 1,939 immigration cases were in federal courts. In 2003, by contrast, 2,374 habeas petitions were filed, and there were 11,906 cases in federal courts.

In the House, Judiciary Committee Chairman F. James Sensenbrenner Jr., Wisconsin Republican, is sponsoring a companion bill, along with Rep. John Hostettler, Indiana Republican and chairman of the Immigration Subcommittee.

But Timothy Edgar, legislative counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union, said the bill is a major shift that both restricts the types of immigration claims and makes it tougher for asylum applicants to prove their cases.

“It goes in exactly the opposite direction as the Supreme Court has indicated Congress should go, which is further restricting immigrants’ right to have a day in court when the government wants to deport them,” he said.

“This is a very serious assault on the right of judicial review that’s much broader than its sponsors have said,” he said.

He also said the increase in immigration cases is misleading because a 2002 decision to streamline the process at the Bureau of Immigration Appeals has actually caused the increase in court cases, because that’s the avenue of appeal from the board’s decisions.

“If anything, I think the bigger message here is these litigation problems they’re talking about are a direct result of past efforts to restrict judicial review and administrative review, and the result has been more litigation,” Mr. Edgar said.

He also said that with no Democratic sponsors and some Republican opposition, the measure probably can’t pass this year.

But Republicans said it is part of their strategy to pass smaller immigration measures, rather than one of the various broad guest-worker or amnesty bills that have been filed by Republicans and Democrats.

Sen. Saxby Chambliss, Georgia Republican and chairman of the Senate Judiciary immigration, border security and citizenship subcommittee, said the deportation bill is one of the “rifle shots that we’re going to continue to fire.”

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