- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 4, 2002

Massachusetts Democratic Sen. Edward M. Kennedy is trying to hijack the new Department of Homeland Security.
Attention has focused on management flexibility, union and bureaucrats' rights, and plaintiffs' lawyers' opportunities to sue, which the administration rightfully oppose.
But Mr. Kennedy and Connecticut Democratic Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman have quietly stuck in the Senate homeland security bill provisions that will fundamentally undermine the mission of the new department. The Senate is poised to move this bill right away.
Grafted into S. 2452 are substantive immigration policy changes from the Kennedy INS reorganization bill. They might as well have been written by the liberal immigration bar and left-wing immigrant rights groups and may well have been.
But if the immigration policy changes become law, the security of all Americans will be at much greater risk than even today. And the security threat through even worse immigration laxity will cancel much of the gains of a new Department of Homeland Security. Compared to those risks, veto-bait such as the management and liability issues pales.
Mr. Lieberman's bill expands asylum law to the point of rampant fraud and abuse. More foreigners would become eligible for benefits under a new category of "asylum seeker." They would seldom be detained because the bill creates alternatives, including parole (meaning, "So long") and being put into the care of liberal immigrants' rights groups.
Mr. Kennedy and Co. hope most people have forgotten the nightmare the asylum system had become before its reform in the mid-1990s. It's still not great, but the system was riddled with fraud and abuse.
Asylum applications rose from 27,000 in 1980 to more than 150,000 in 1995. Increasingly, aliens arrived without identification documents or carrying fake documents. By 1994, the asylum backlog had grown to 400,000 claims. The vast majority of claims were found to be groundless or fraudulent.
Asylum claimants failed to show up for their asylum hearings. Other asylum applicants stretched out the appeals process. Many never left once they exhausted their appeals. According to INS sources, most aliens claiming asylum don't have valid claims, and many have been coached on what to tell inspectors.
Who are we talking about as using the asylum loopholes, both present and proposed? Hesham Mohamed Hadayet, the Fourth of July Los Angeles Airport shooter, had filed a bogus asylum claim as a means to stay in the United States. Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman, involved in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, filed a fake asylum claim among other ruses to stay in the United States. So did Ramzi Yousef, mastermind of that plot.
Giving aliens and terrorists more ability to play off our sympathies in place of those who actually face persecution and deserve asylum, as in the Kennedy-Lieberman plan, doesn't deserve to become law especially not in a homeland security bill.
The bill also would fund a leftist proposal. A new Office of Children's Services for "unaccompanied alien children" would provide legal counsel and guardians at taxpayer expense, if free representation is unavailable. This could continue until the child turns 18. And unreliable, unscientific evidence could serve to determine one's age.
These young aliens would get special rights. They couldn't be removed quickly, could claim asylum more than a year after entering the United States and would face no punishment for fraudulent asylum claims a common problem.
The immigration provisions in the bill risk sovereignty and undermine the Constitution. "Immigration law" would be newly defined to include much, much more than immigration law. It would now include executive orders, regulations and the like, as well as unratified international agreements.
In other words, Congress would lose much of its constitutional ability to check the executive branch. And foreign governments, unelected supranational bodies and bureaucrats would be free to dictate to Americans what our laws are.
The courts have consistently upheld the right of Congress to determine who to admit, exclude and expel and on what basis. This is a right of sovereignty. And exercising this right belongs to Congress alone among its plenary powers.
To pawn off this exclusive congressional power to the executive branch or foreign entities would upset the constitutional balance. It would give noncitizens of the United States the ability to dictate our own laws, even if the Senate had never ratified a related treaty.
The Senate should keep the homeland security bill free of these substantive changes in immigration policy. The House should insist that these be dropped from the bill. And the White House should include these in its reasons for a veto.

James R. Edwards Jr. is an adjunct fellow with the Hudson Institute.


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