Quickly rushed through Congress in the aftermath of September 11th, 2001 the PATRIOT Act gave sweeping powers to the federal government. Civil liberty advocates, like the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), opposed this affront to our civil liberties in the name of national security. Since its passage, thousands of local jurisdictions and people from across the nation have rallied in opposition to the PATRIOT Act. Congressional hearings were held throughout 2005 as a year end date for reauthorization of the bill approached.
As Congress considered reauthorization-or renewal-of the controversial bill, many Members objected to the lack of safe guards for civil liberties and felt the most egregious sections-like sneak and peek provisions-should be removed from the PATRIOT Act should Congress reauthorize the bill. Unable to push through a year end bipartisan filibuster in the Senate, GOP leadership was forced to extend the existing PATRIOT Act for another five weeks.
Senate leadership has promised the senators who led the filibuster that they would include civil liberty safe guards when Congress again takes up the bill in February 2006. ADC is working with Senate offices and coalition partners to insert such protections especially by including the Civil Liberties Restoration Act into the PATRIOT Act negotiations.
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Civil Liberties Restoration Act
Reintroduced during the 109th Congress by Congressman Howard Berman (CA), HR 1502 the Civil Liberties Restoration Act would restore civil liberties and remove the most egregious parts of PATIROT Act. The House bill currently has 11 cosponsors. ADC and coalition partners are working with offices to introduce CLRA in the senate as a whole or piece by piece on other moving vehicles, most notably reauthorization of the PATRIOT Act.
The Civil Liberties Restoration Act of 2005 (CLRA) seeks, in measured fashion, to restore essential protections and basic freedoms without compromising our nation’s safety. The CLRA aims to reverse policies that weaken our constitutional commitment to due process before the law; restore public confidence in the government; demonstrate our commitment to basic rights to key allies and other nations whose support we need in the fight against terrorism; and more effectively utilize the resources appropriated for counterterrorism efforts.
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Funding for Gaza
In July, after completion of its ‘disengagement‘ from Gaza, Israel announced it would seek money from Washington for its efforts. The announced request was for $2.2 billion dollars of American tax-payer dollars to remove illegal Israeli settlements that had been built over the years in the internationally recognized Palestinian territory of Gaza.
This aid request was put on hold after the massive hurricane, Katrina, hit America‘s Gulf Coast. With hundreds of thousands of Americans without homes and shelter, Israel knew it was a politically insensitive time to be asking Capitol Hill for a hand-out.
It is expected Congress will discreetly consider this aid request in the new year.
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Just as it had in the 108th Congress, the House Committee on Education and the Workforce considered and passed in subcommittee a bill to create a government oversight board for American universities accepting federal funding (Title VI) for their international studies and foreign language. This year, Congressman Patrick Tiberi (OH) introduced the International Studies in Higher Education Act of 2005 (HR 509). The bill passed through its subcommittee by a voice vote. It has yet to be considered by the full committee in the House or on the House floor by all Members.
And though the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) supports reauthorization and funding of international area studies and foreign language programs, just as in the 108th Congress, we oppose including language that would create an International Studies Advisory Board (Advisory Board). This Advisory Board would monitor and review curricula and professors in these programs. Members of the proposed board would even include representatives from national security agencies. Though this Board would monitor all area studies we know the target of current efforts is Middle East studies programs. This advisory board is being supported by think tanks and by the self-appointed campus watchdog Daniel Pipes’ Campus Watch whose aim is to stifle academic debate in institutions across our nation.
The Congressional intention of Title VI funding was to create a program to support international area studies and foreign language programs; thus preparing an educated American workforce that can bring skills in language and area expertise to jobs in service to the American government and military. The very purpose of this program is to create a pool of experts to respond to the shifting foreign policy needs of our country. To politicize the nation’s international studies programs at the policy whims of different administrations is counterproductive to the original intent of Congress. At this most critical time when as a country and as a people we need to know all sides of a conflict to bring forth a secure nation and a just foreign policy, those who seek this knowledge are being labeled by this bill and this movement as insufficiently patriotic. This measure threatens to suppress dialogue. Such intellectual intimidation also serves to cut off avenues for exploring possibilities of peace.
It was originally expected that all bills concerning higher education would come out of the House of Representatives one title at a time. The title-or section-with which we are concerned is Title VI and affects foreign language and international area studies programs. When all of these bills passed individually out of the House and were sent to the Senate, it was expected that the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pension would roll all of them into one bill titled, The Higher Education Reauthorization Act.
Late in 2005, as Members of Congress wrapped up work for the first session of the 109th Congress, the Senate went ahead and added its version of the Higher Education Reauthorization Act to S. 1932 the Budget Reconciliation Act. The Senate and House committee leaders sparred over differences between their versions of higher education reauthorization. Most differences between the chambers dealt with student aid and funding formulas to universities. In the end, pressing funding matters in higher education were included in the budget reconciliation bill when it passed through Congress. The majority of higher education reauthorization, including Title VI funding for international studies programs were not included. A temporary extension of existing higher education was passed at the end. These matters, including the international advisory board, will be addressed again next year by both the House and Senate.
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Comprehensive Immigration Reform
In late 2004, President Bush promised to work with Congress to reform our nation‘s immigration system. Throughout 2005, the White House and Congress worked toward the goal of fixing our broken immigration system. The result, thus far, has fallen short of stated intentions.
At the end of the year, the House of Representatives passed an enforcement-only immigration bill giving local and state law enforcement sweeping new powers to enforce civil federal immigration violations. The bill, H.R. 4437, the Border Protection, anti-Terrorism, and Illegal Immigration Control Act was sponsored by House Judiciary Chairman James Sensenbrenner (WI) and Congressman Peter King (NY). If enacted and fully enforced, it would make millions of undocumented immigrants felons, fine or jail hundreds of thousands of American employers, and put millions of other Americans behind bars as “alien smugglers.” It would require the hiring of tens of thousands of prosecutors, judges, and court personnel, and require the building of hundreds more jails.
ADC and immigration advocates opposed H.R. 4437 viewing it as one of the most horrific immigration bills to come out of Congress in decades. During floor consideration amendments were added making the horrendous underlying bill even worse. Unfortunately, the CLEAR Act passed as an amendment to the Sensenbrenner-King immigration bill (HR 4437). The amendment, introduced by the original bill sponsor, Congressman Norwood (GA), will allow state and local law enforcement to enforce federal civil and criminal immigration violations. It will also allow these violations-which would even include change of address forms not entered into the system-to be dumped into the FBI administered NCIC database that cops routinely check during traffic stops. An amendment introduced by Congressman Campbell (CO) attacking confidentiality policies passed by voice vote. Congressman Myrick‘s (NC) amendment also passed which would make first-time DUI a deportable offense and empowering state and local police in immigration matters. The Sensenbrenner/King bill passed the House of Representatives by a vote of 239 to 182.
The Senate will consider immigration reform early next year. Senator Arlen Specter (PA), Chairman of the Senate Committee on the Judiciary, will take the lead on the immigration debate. It is not likely that the Senate will take up the Sensenbrenner bill for consideration but rather consider their own bill and conference the two later in 2006. The Senate bill promises to include more realistic reforms to the nation‘s broken immigration system.
The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) supports comprehensive immigration reform. ADC endorses and urges Congress to pass the Secure America Act (S.1033 /H.R. 2330). It is sponsored by Senators McCain and Kennedy in the Senate in and in the House by Congressmen Kolbe, Flake and Guiterrez. Our immigration policies must be enforceable, bring immigrants out of the shadows, provide a path to citizenship, protect workers, reunite families, enhance security, and promote citizenship and civic participation.
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End Racial Profiling Act (ERPA)
At the end of the year, Senators Russ Feingold (WI), Jon Corzine (NJ), Frank Lautenberg (NJ), Edward Kennedy (MA), Dick Durbin (IL), John Kerry (MA), Barbara Boxer (CA), Chris Dodd (CT), Maria Cantwell (WA), Barbara Mikulski (MD), Barack Obama (IL), and Debbie Stabenow (MI) introduced S. 2138, the “End Racial Profiling Act of 2005” in the Senate. Congressman John Conyers, Jr. (MI), intends to drop a companion bill in the House in early February, 2006.
ADC was instrumental in working with both Senate and House offices on this bill in both the 108th and 109th Congresses to expand the definition of racial profiling to include religion and nation of origin.
ADC endorsers ERPA which:
-Defines racial profiling and bans it at all levels of law enforcement — federal, state, and local.
-Prohibits law enforcement officers from using race, ethnicity, national origin, or religion in making routine or spontaneous law enforcement decisions, except when a law enforcement agent is seeking to apprehend a specific suspect.
-Requires data collection on all law enforcement encounters.
-Provides legal options to individuals injured by racial profiling.
-Provides grant programs for law enforcement agencies.
Action alert coming soon!
Hate Crimes Legislation
ADC endorses H.R.2662 and S. 1145 the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Acts of 2005 (LLEA). Both bills are also known as, ‘the Hate Crimes bill.‘ LLEA provides Federal assistance to States and local jurisdictions to prosecute hate crimes. The House bill is sponsored by Congressman John Conyers (MI) and has 151 cosponsors. In the Senate the bill was introduced by Senator Edward Kennedy (MA) and has 44 cosponsors.
On September 14, Congressman John Conyers, along with Congressman Barney Frank (MA) and Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin (WI,) offered LLEA as an amendment to the Children‘s Safety Act (H.R.3132). The underlying children‘s bill makes improvements to the national sex offender registration program. The LLEA amendment passed the House during floor consideration by a vote of 223-199. Efforts to pass hate crimes legislation have never before come this far. Previous votes for LLEEA were nonbonding motions.
The sex offenders bill, with LLEA attached, is now before the Senate for consideration in 2006. GOP leadership was not pleased with LLEA passing the House and have delayed consideration of the Children‘s Safety Act in an attempt to stop consideration of LLEA. Should the Senate decide to write and consider its own version of a sex offenders bill, Senator Kennedy will offer his Senate version of LLEA for consideration. Should this occur and the two sex offender bills go to conference, ADC and coalition partners prefer the House version since it has a broader definition of categories affected by hate crimes.
Action alert coming soon!