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Dear Editor:
Please take a moment as soon as possible between September 24, and Thursday morning, September 26, to contact your Senators. Also be sure to contact Senator Daschle at 202-224-2321. Urge them to vote "no" on the cloture vote on the Gramm/Miller substitute. (Cloture is a technical term that signals the end of debate. By not allowing debate to end, the Gramm/Miller bill would probably have to be withdrawn.) You can reach your Senators through their individual office numbers or through the congressional switchboard (202-224-3121).

The future of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is at a critical juncture in the Senate. From the start, immigration advocates have made clear that our ideal outcome would be for the immigration function to be entirely removed from the national security/homeland protection context. Unfortunately, immigration is part of the proposed DHS. The preferred model was passed by the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee in late July. In the last several weeks the Bush administration has leaned heavily on Republicans who were once supportive of our preferred immigration structure, and has been successful in peeling off many of our allies. Senators Gramm (R-TX) and Miller (D-GA) have introduced the White House's bill that would gut much of the preferred portions of the Governmental Affairs Committee proposal. Moreover, compromises on issues other than immigration may make it possible for some of our allies in the Senate to actually vote in favor of cloture and, ultimately, the Gramm-Miller bill, despite its immigration problems.

Word on Capitol Hill has it that Senators Gramm and Miller plan to offer their bill as a substitute to what is currently being considered on the Senate floor, the Governmental Affairs-passed bill, today. They will then present a cloture motion to move the bill forward by limiting debate and amendments that can be offered. The Senate would vote on the cloture petition on Thursday.

Here is what you could say: The Gramm/Miller substitute to the Senate Governmental Affairs Homeland Security bill contains many negative provisions, including ones that would: (1) Weaken the EOIR by codifying the AG's power over the courts, without codifying the role and structure of the courts, and deleting references to appellate review; (2) Propose an unworkable reorganization of our immigration functions by separating Border Patrol and inspections from the rest of immigration, which would make balance and coordination of immigration law enforcement and immigration service priorities extremely difficult; (3) Grant to the head of the newly created Border and Transportation Directorate the authority to establish rules and regulations on visa issuance as well as parole authority; (4) Make it difficult to establish a Civil Rights Office, as the substitute deletes all references in this bill to that office; and (5) Eliminate protections for unaccompanied minors by removing the requirement for the appointment of guardians ad litem and pro bono counsel.

For an explanation of how the immigration function might be better organized within the Department of Homeland Security (as proposed in the Senate Governmental Affairs Homeland Security bill that is now threatened), see the Forum's statement, "Immigration and the Department of Homeland Security": http://www.immigrationforum.org/press/articles/062702_homeland.htm.

Lynn Tramonte
Policy/Communications Associate
National Immigration Forum


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