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ABA adopts policies calling for more modern,
fair, transparent immigration system
Delegates also recommend policies on asbestos litigation

(ABA news release)
CHICAGO, Feb. 13, 2006 - The American Bar Association House of Delegates adopted policy today on a host of issues central to the current debate on immigration reform, passing policies addressing general reform; right to counsel; due process and judicial review; administration of U.S. immigration laws; pardons; immigration detention; asylum and refugee procedures; and protections for immigrant victims of crime.

"Our immigration system is not meeting the needs of our nation, we need comprehensive and real solutions, and so we are taking the lead in suggesting change," said ABA President Michael Greco "As lawyers, our passion - and our mission - is ensuring good law and a working justice system, so it's deeply troubling to us that today's immigration laws bear so little relation to our country's fundamental principles, economic needs or national security interests."

The House of Delegates, the ABA's policy-making body, also adopted a series of recommendations designed to protect the rights of injured claimants if the current tort based asbestos litigation system is changed to an administrative process. The policies are meant to ensure that claimants have access to representation, that any awards are not depleted by taxes or subrogation, and that any trust fund is adequately funded and contains contingent provisions to respond to any shortfall.

Among the policy recommendations the ABA is making on immigration:

* Immigration Reform: The ABA is calling for a regulated, orderly and safe immigration system that addresses the undocumented population, the need for immigrant labor, the value of family reunification and the need for an effective enforcement strategy. Further, it supports programs for undocumented laborers and future workers that include a path to permanent residence, labor protections, and identity and security checks. The ABA's new policy also supports making legal status available to undocumented persons who entered the U.S. as children and have significant ties to the nation. The ABA also favors a coordinated government program to teach immigrants English; prepare them for citizenship and otherwise promote their integration into their new country.

* Right to Counsel in Removal Proceedings: The ABA supports making legal orientation presentations available to all people in removal proceedings; as well as screening indigent immigrants to see whether legal relief might be available to them, and, if so, referring them to pro bono or appointed counsel. The ABA also supports providing counsel for the mentally ill in all immigration proceedings.

* Due Process: The ABA urges due process protections throughout the immigration process. To this end, the ABA is a proponent of meaningful administrative and judicial review and neutral and independent immigration judges, and opposes retroactive immigration laws. The ABA also supports giving immigration judges increased discretion, so they may decide cases fairly and on the facts before them.

* Administration of U.S. Immigration Laws: The ABA is pressing for a transparent, accessible, fair and efficient system for administering immigration laws. The ABA also supports vigilant enforcement of laws
against the unauthorized practice of law, and mechanisms to ensure that immigrants do not lose their rights when they fall victim to unscrupulous lawyers or others posing as lawyers. Additionally, the ABA favors discovery procedures for immigration proceedings and a standard process for Freedom of Information Act requests, which non-citizens rely on to obtain information about their cases.

* Pardons: The ABA is calling for the expanded use of the pardon power, to allow individuals with certain convictions to avert deportation in appropriate circumstances. Additionally, the ABA is calling for standards governing applications for pardon that offer specific, reasonable procedures and expeditious processing, and which ensure that pardons granted for the purpose of averting deportation satisfy federal immigration law standards. The ABA is also urging that discretionary authority be restored to courts or to an administrative agency to waive deportation where appropriate.

* Detention: The ABA opposes detention of non-citizens in "removal" proceedings except in extraordinary cases, such as where they are a threat to national security or a substantial flight risk. The ABA also supports detention alternatives. The policy calls for prompt hearings, meaningful administrative review and judicial oversight for detainees. It also supports effective custody review procedures for immigration detainees, with judicial oversight, and full compliance with recent Supreme Court decisions relating to detention following a final order of removal.

* Asylum: The ABA supports practices that ensure proper identification of asylum seekers at the border and in expedited removal proceedings. It also advocates enabling asylum officers to grant asylum in an initial review process, when it is clear that there is no need for additional court review, and supports eliminating unduly restrictive limitations, such as the one-year deadline for asylum seekers to initiate claims. Additionally, the ABA calls for creating fair screening procedures for refugees interdicted by the United States and for development of a refugee visa, as well as improved visa and pre-clearance policies to help those trying to seek refuge in the United States.

* Protections for Immigrant Victims of Crime: The ABA supports means for victims of human trafficking, domestic violence, and related crimes to obtain lawful immigration status and employment authorization, and supports providing them with public benefits. Finally, the ABA opposes apprehending victims for immigration violations where they are seeking shelter or at the courthouse while they are seeking protection against their abusers.

The new policies enhance and expand the association's stance on immigration reform. Prior ABA policy includes favoring legal immigration based on family reunification and employment skills, due process safeguards in immigration and asylum adjudications, and judicial review of such decisions. Additionally, the ABA calls for the appointment of counsel at government expense for unaccompanied children in immigration proceedings, restoration of public benefits to legal immigrants and refugees, and improving the wages, working conditions and legal status of farm workers in the United States. The ABA opposes laws that require employers and persons providing education, health care or other social services to verify citizenship or immigration status. More information about ABA immigration policy can be found at http://www.abanet.org/immigration.

These and other policy proposals that were submitted in advance for consideration at this House of Delegates meeting are accessible through a link at the ABA's on-line press room. Visit http://www.abanews.org/meetings/midyear06.html and click on Summary of Recommendations.

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