Immigration Rights, DNA Evidence, HIV/AIDS, and other
Individual Rights Issues on Legislative Agenda
In the first session of the 109th Congress, numerous bills of interest to the Section have been introduced. The Section’s Rights of Immigrants Committee currently is focusing its efforts on opposing provisions of H.R. 418, otherwise known as the Sensenbrenner Bill, which provides, among other things, that detainees are not entitled to judicial review, includes drivers’ license provisions and generally discriminates based on alienage. Bob Evans, Director of the ABA Government Affairs Office, recently sent a letter addressed to members of Congress, encouraging their opposition to the bill.
“H.R. 418 would, among other things: require applicants [applying for U.S. asylum based upon persecution in their home countries] to prove a “central reason” behind their persecution; allow immigration officers or judges to determine [applicants] credibility based on demeanor and oral statements made whether or not under oath; and bar courts from review of discretionary judgments. These provisions would, in some cases, present nearly insurmountable obstacles for genuine refugees fleeing persecution to gain asylum in the United States.” (Current ABA policy supports “a humane and enforceable safe-haven mechanism to provide protection to persons who are unable to return to their home countries because of conditions that endanger their safety and well-being.” Additionally, the ABA supports legislation to provide hearings before immigration judges for asylum applicants on all issues.)
Other Congressional action included bills on disability law, death penalty, HIV/AIDS, privacy, and other civil rights-related issues.
On Feb. 17, Rep. Maloney (D-NY) introduced HR 950, the “Prevention of Trafficking of Tsunami Orphans Act of 2005,” to authorize assistance to support programs that protect children who are homeless or orphaned as a result of the Indian Ocean tsunami from becoming victims of trafficking. The bill was referred to the House Committee on International Relations.
On Feb. 15, Sen. Collins (R-ME) introduced S 380, the “Keeping Families Together Act,” to amend the Public Health Service Act to establish a state family support grant program to end the practice of parents giving legal custody of their seriously emotionally disturbed children to state agencies for the purpose of obtaining mental health services for those children. The bill was referred to the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions. A similar bill was introduced in the House and referred to the Committee on Energy and Commerce.
On Feb. 1, Rep. Maloney (D-NY) introduced HR 475, the “Family and Medical Leave Inclusion Act,” to amend the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 to permit leave to care for a same-sex spouse, domestic partner, parent-in-law, adult child, sibling, or grandparent suffering from a serious health condition. The bill was referred to the House Committees on Education and the Workforce, Government Reform, and House Administration.
On Mar. 2, Rep. Meehan (D-MA) introduced HR 1059 to amend Title 10, U.S. Code, to enhance the readiness of the Armed Forces by replacing the current “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy with a policy of nondiscrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. The bill was referred to the House Committee on Armed Services.
On Jan. 6, Rep. Jackson Lee (D-TX) introduced HR 259, the “Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2005,” to enhance federal enforcement of hate crimes. The bill was referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary.
On Jan. 6, Rep. Stearns (R-FL) introduced H Con Res 11, requiring the display of the Ten Commandments in the Hall of the House of Representatives and the Chamber of Senate. A similar bill was introduced requiring the display in the U.S. Capitol. Both bills were referred to the Committee on House Administration.
On Jan. 6, Rep. Towns (D-NY) introduced HR 288, the “Civil Rights Amendments Act of 2005,” to amend the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Fair Housing Act to prohibit discrimination on the basis of affectional sexual orientation. The bill was referred to the House Committees on the Judiciary and Education and the Workforce. (In 1989, the ABA adopted Section-sponsored policy prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in employment, housing, and public accommodations.)
On Jan. 26, Rep. Fattah (D-PA) introduced HR 379, the “Innocent Life Protection Act of 2005,” to ensure equal protection and due process of law in capital punishment cases by imposing a moratorium on the imposition and implementation of the death penalty in certain states. The bill has been referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary. (In 1997, while taking no position on the death penalty per se, the ABA adopted policy calling for a moratorium on executions until it can be assured that capital cases are administered fairly and impartially, in accordance with due process, and with minimal risk that innocent persons may be executed.)
On Jan. 26, Sen. Grassley (R-IA) introduced S 183, the “Dylan Lee James Act,” to amend Title XIX of the Social Security Act to provide families of disabled children with the opportunity to purchase coverage under the Medicaid program for such children. The bill was referred to the Senate Committee on Finance.
On Jan. 25, Rep. Van Hollen (D-MD) introduced HR 363, the “Keep our PACT Act,” to require full funding of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. The bill was referred to the House Committees on Education and the Workforce and Appropriations.
On Jan. 31, the Department of Justice announced an interim rule to implement DNA sample collection from federal offenders under the Justice for All Act.
On Jan. 6, Rep. Jackson Lee (D-TX) introduced HR 244, the “Save Our Children: Stop the Violent Predators Against Children DNA Act of 2005,” to create a separate DNA database for violent predators against children. The bill has been referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary.
On Mar. 2, Rep. Jackson (D-IL) introduced H J Res 33, proposing an amendment to the Constitution of the United States respecting the right to a clean, safe, and sustainable environment. The bill has been referred to the House Judiciary Committee.
On Jan. 25, Rep. Cunningham (R-CA) introduced H J Res 10, proposing an amendment to the Constitution of the United States authorizing the Congress to prohibit the physical desecration of the flag of the United States. The bill was referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary. (In 1989, the ABA adopted policy opposing the adoption of an amendment to the Constitution concerning the desecration of the American flag.)
On Mar. 2, less than a month after the ABA passed a Section co-sponsored resolution calling upon the United States government to take all necessary and proper actions within its power to end the ongoing atrocities (including genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes) in Darfur, Sudan, Sen. Corzine, (D-NJ) introduced S 495, the “Darfur Accountability Act of 2005,” to among other actions, impose sanctions against perpetrators of crimes against humanity in Darfur, Sudan. The bill was referred to the House Committee on Foreign Relations.
On Feb. 28, Sen. Specter (R-PA) introduced S 470, to amend the Public Health Service Act to provide for human embryonic stem cell research. The bill was referred to the House Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions. (In 2002, the ABA adopted Section-sponsored policy that supports the freedom to pursue scientific knowledge for the improvement of human health and opposes governmental actions that would prohibit scientific research conducted for therapeutic purposes or penalize individuals or research entities that participate in such research.)
On Feb. 8, Sen. Smith (R-OR) introduced S 311 the “Early Treatment for HIV Act of 2005,” to amend Title XIX of the Social Security Act to permit states the option to provide Medicaid coverage for low-income individuals infected with HIV before they develop AIDS. The bill was referred to the Senate Committee on Finance.
On Feb. 7, Sen. Lugar (R-IN) introduced S Res 42, expressing the sense of the Senate on promoting initiatives to develop an HIV vaccine. The bill was referred to the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations.
On Jan. 24, Sen. Feinstein (D-CA) introduced S 119, the “Unaccompanied Alien Child Protection Act of 2005,” to provide for the protection of unaccompanied alien children, and to ensure they have counsel to represent them in immigration proceedings. The bill was referred to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary. (ABA policy supports the appointment of counsel at government expense to assist unaccompanied children in immigration proceedings and supports the humane treatment and legalization of unlawful aliens living in the United States.)
On Jan. 25, Sen. Feinstein (D-CA) introduced S 115, the “Notification of Risk to Personal Data Act,” to require federal agencies and persons engaged in interstate commerce and in possession of electronic data containing personal information, to disclose any unauthorized acquisition of such information. The bill was referred to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary.
On Feb. 17, Rep. Markey (D-MA) introduced HR 952, the “Torture Outsourcing Prevention Act,” to prohibit the transfer or return of persons by the United States, for the purpose of detention, interrogation, trial, or otherwise, to countries where torture or other inhuman treatment of persons occurs. The bill was referred to the House Committee on International Relations.