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Reform Jewish Movement Urges the House to Restore Due Process Rights to Legal Permanent Residents

Pelavin: [T]his important legislation takes reasonable steps to restore due process rights to legal permanent residents who have been ensnared by unfair and draconian immigration laws.


Contact: Alexis Rice or Michael Weiner 202-387-2800

WASHINGTON, May 10, 2002 - In a letter today to the House of Representatives, Mark J. Pelavin, Associate Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, expressed the Reform Jewish Movement's support for the Family Reunification Act (H.R. 1452), noting the legislation, "takes reasonable steps to restore due process rights to legal permanent residents who have been ensnared by unfair and draconian immigration laws."

The full text of the letter sent to the House follows:

Dear Representative:

On behalf of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, encompassing 1.5 million Reform Jews in 900 congregations across North America, I urge you to support the Family Reunification Act (H.R. 1452). Sponsored by Representative Barney Frank (D-MA), this important legislation takes reasonable steps to restore due process rights to legal permanent residents who have been ensnared by unfair and draconian immigration laws.

Jewish tradition teaches, "There shall be one law for the citizen and for the stranger who dwells among you" (Exodus 12:49). In contemporary America, this legal principle demands that aliens be afforded the same rights to due process and judicial discretion under our immigration system as all those residing in this country are afforded under our criminal justice system. Unfortunately, sweeping immigration laws enacted during the past several years have severely curtailed those rights.

In particular, the 1996 Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act (IIRIRA) has resulted in the mandatory detention and permanent deportation of legal permanent residents guilty of only minor offenses, including shoplifting and drug possession. Immigration judges do not have the discretion to take into account extenuating factors, such as evidence of rehabilitation or community leadership, family ties, the seriousness of the offense or the immigrant's length of residency. Even worse, IIRIRA applies retroactively, so that individuals who previously served time for past crimes may be detained and deported for the same offense. This practice essentially constitutes double jeopardy, violating one of the most basic principles of our legal system.
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Under the Family Reunification Act, legal permanent residents accused of minor crimes could present extenuating factors during deportation and bond proceedings, and judges would be allowed to take those factors into account. This legislation represents reasonable reform consistent with this country's traditional respect for immigration and civil liberties without granting any additional relief to those suspected of terrorism, murder, rape or other serious crimes. But its positive impact on law-abiding immigrant families trapped by a harsh and often merciless system would be highly significant.

Again, I urge you to reaffirm America's reverence for due process and a fair immigration system by supporting the Family Reunification Act. Thank you for your consideration.

Respectfully,

/s/
Mark J. Pelavin
Associate Director, Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism

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The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism is the Washington office of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations (UAHC) , whose over 900 congregations across North America encompass 1.5 million Reform Jews , and the Central Conference of American Rabbis(CCAR) whose membership includes over 1800 Reform rabbis .



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