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Statement of Linda A. Klein, ABA president, Re: Recent executive orders on immigration

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Statement of Linda A. Klein, ABA president, Re: Recent executive orders on immigration

By John Glynn

WASHINGTON, Jan. 31, 2017 — Our nation has the right to protect its borders to keep our citizens safe. At the same time, protecting the rights of the most vulnerable is an important tenet of our country.  We do both within the bounds of our Constitution and the rights it secures.

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The American Bar Association is concerned by significant portions of the immigration-related executive orders issued on January 25 and 27, 2017, regarding border security, immigration enforcement and terrorism.  Together, they make significant changes to our nation’s immigration policies and jeopardize fundamental principles of justice, due process and the rule of law. 

Our nation must protect the rights secured by the U.S. Constitution, including those of noncitizens.  Drawing on the 14th Amendment and other provisions, the Supreme Court has held that many of these rights cover all “persons” within the United States, regardless of citizenship or status.

While every sovereign nation has the right to secure its borders, any specific enforcement efforts must avoid sweeping bans based on religion or national origin. 

The Jan. 25 executive orders on border security and immigration enforcement will likely have an even larger impact on our immigration system. The orders call for the establishment of new detention facilities along the southwest border, already at an all-time high, and require that all persons be detained throughout their removal proceedings.  Detention is a serious deprivation of liberty that separates families. The ABA therefore opposes detention except in extraordinary circumstances, such as a threat to public safety or flight risk.

The order further expands the use of expedited removal through which an individual can be deported without an opportunity for a hearing before an immigration judge.  The ABA maintains that removal decisions should be made only by impartial adjudicators, preferably immigration judges, following a formal hearing that conforms with accepted norms of due process. Under the rule of law, we owe due process to all, including those who face deportation.

The ABA has an interest and responsibility to protect the rights guaranteed by the Constitution and ensure the sanctity of the rule of law. Our association sponsors projects along the southern border that provide legal information and representation to detained, indigent adults and children and provide training and technical assistance to pro bono attorneys and legal service providers. All of this to ensure access to justice for all.

The Jan. 27 executive order—which indefinitely bars Syrian refugees from entering the United States, suspends all refugee admissions for 120 days and blocks refugees and other citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States for 90 days—raises several constitutional questions. Some of these have already been challenged in federal court. Additional litigation is bound to follow.

This order comes at a time when we are witnessing the highest levels of refugee displacement since World War II. It seriously disrupts our nation’s immigration system and calls into question the United States as a leader in protecting the world’s refugees.

Unfortunately, the haste of the order’s implementation has also created confusion among the very agencies assigned to implement and enforce it. The lack of clarity has added to the chaos and caused panic among affected families and communities.

We applaud the numerous lawyers across the country who have flocked to airports where immigrants were detained to ensure that they received due process and equal protection under the law. The legal profession in the United States and the ABA are dedicated to safeguarding the rights of those in need of protection.

For more information contact Matt Cimento at matthew.cimento@americanbar.org or 202-662-1092.

With more than 400,000 members, the American Bar Association is one of the largest voluntary professional membership organizations in the world. As the national voice of the legal profession, the ABA works to improve the administration of justice, promotes programs that assist lawyers and judges in their work, accredits law schools, provides continuing legal education, and works to build public understanding around the world of the importance of the rule of law. View our privacy statement online. Follow the latest ABA news at www.americanbar.org/news and on Twitter @ABANews.