Ashcroft Angers Alien Advocates By Improving Immigration System

Atty. Gen. John Ashcroft has managed to speed up the process for actually deporting illegal aliens, but now liberal interest groups are complaining that the U.S. immigration process does not treat illegal aliens exactly the same way that U.S. courts treat U.S. citizens.

In fact, the entire liberal argument against expedited deportation of illegal aliens is based on the premise that the government should make no distinction at all between illegal aliens and U.S. citizens.

On Aug. 23, 2002, Ashcroft approved final new rules requiring the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA), which hears appeals from the nation’s immigration courts, to clear its backlog of 56,000 cases by March 25. Under the Constitution, Congress has authority over immigration. And Congress decided to put the BIA and all immigration courts under the Executive Branch, not the Judicial Branch, because the Constitution also does not grant foreign nationals a "right" to enter the United States or participate in any immigration process here not specifically enacted by Congress.

The Los Angeles Times has been running critical stories recently on BIA’s new tendency to deny immigrants’ appeals. "Denials of appeals rose to 86% in October from 59% the previous October," the Times reported January 7. On January 6, the Times said, "In February, 9% of the board’s decisions were summary rulings; by August, more than half were."

The Justice Department says this is because BIA now works more like a regular appeals court. The board will use the standard of review for factual issues in appeals from immigration judges that most appellate courts use-a " ‘clearly erroneous’ standard," said a Justice Department background paper. "The board will no longer review immigration judges’ factual findings ‘de novo’-or anew."

Justice added, "Appeals are being adjudicated in a timely manner and are carefully considered to ensure that each appellant receives due process."

But 80 liberal groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, and People for the American Way, signed a March 7, 2002, letter to Congress urging repeal of many reforms enacted in 1996 to expedite immigration processes. "The 1996 immigration laws do not respect the fundamental principles of fairness and due process that are a cornerstone of our American system of justice and which our Constitution affords to every person within our borders, including immigrants," said the letter.

The ACLU’s immigrants-rights project says, "It is true that the Constitution does not give foreigners the right to enter the U.S. But once here, it protects them from discrimination based on race and national origin and from arbitrary treatment by the government. . . . Laws that punish them violate their fundamental right to fair and equal treatment."

The American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) complained in a May 30 paper about the lack of parity between the U.S. immigration system and the U.S. judicial system. "The laws expand the grounds of deportation, subjecting long-term immigrants to mandatory detention and automatic deportation for relatively insignificant crimes. Low-level immigration officials act as judge and jury, and the federal courts lack the power to review most deportation decisions and INS activities."

If they had their way, illegal aliens would still enjoy the pre-Ashcroft system in which endless appeals in the immigration courts permanently postponed the deportation of many illegal aliens.