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Mr. CONYERS. Thank you very much. I would like to
Chairman SENSENBRENNER. The gentleman from Michigan is recognized.
Mr. CONYERS. Well, I would like to strike the requisite number of words, Mr. Chairman, if I might at this time.
Chairman SENSENBRENNER. The gentleman is recognized for 5 minutes.
Mr. CONYERS. I want to, again, thank you for complying with the rules. But, I mean, we can do this in a friendly tone or a hostile tone. I think that tells the story to everybody about what the real environment is like here. But first of all, we have never had the meeting that we were going to set. Number two, we have never, we have never determined what the limits will be on this hearing, because I never talked with you about it. Number four, it is very important that we understand that in this Committee and in the other body, we have gone way beyond the 16 sunsetting provisions as we all know and there are more coming every day.
So to suggest to me and our membership that we are now going to talk about the 16 sunsetting provisions precisely misses the point of why we have asked for the hearing.
Chairman SENSENBRENNER. Will the gentleman yield.
Chairman SENSENBRENNER. The Chair has complied with the rules. The Chair believes in complying with the rules. And the Chair expects all of the other Members to comply with the rules, which includes the Rules of the House of Representatives relative to pertinence and relevancy and the Chair will enforce the rules as they are written.
Mr. CONYERS. Well, I am happy to have yielded for that information. But section 1001 of the PATRIOT Act gave the Inspector General the responsibility of investigating "complaints alleging abuses of civil rights and civil liberties by employees and officials of the Department of Justice."
All of the topics today that are before us with these four witnesses fall under this category. It does not say only civil liberties abuses under the PATRIOT Act, but civil liberties in general in their totality. And all of the witnesses today I claim are experts in this area.
So we didn't come here to have a special hearing to be told that we are only going to investigate 16 sunsetting provisions. That is what we have had, nine, 10, 11 hearings about. The question is about the issues of violations or abuses alleged of civil rights and civil liberties. So we didn't come here today to be muted by some well-intentioned recitations of the rules by the Chairman.
And, I thank you. And I return the time.
Chairman SENSENBRENNER. The Chair strikes the last word and recognizes himself for a very brief 5 minutes. First of all, the Rules of the House and specifically, Rule 11 clause 2(j)(1) under which this hearing is called, requires that the subject matter of the hearings requested under this rule be confined to that measure or matter, which was the subject of the earlier hearing. Furthermore, the letter that I received from the Democratic Members of the Committee, dated June 7, exercising the provisions of this rule, re
quested at least one additional day of oversight hearings be authorized or be conducted, “on the Reauthorization of the USA PATRIOT Act.”
So both the rule and the letter requires that the testimony, in order to be pertinent and relevant, be on the subject of the reauthorization of the USA PATRIOT Act, and that is specifically the 16 sections of the USA PATRIOT Act, which were sunsetted in the law which was passed 342 years ago. I would like to get to the
Mr. NADLER. Mr. Chairman, I have a personal privilege. Chairman SENSENBRENNER. The gentleman will state his point.
Mr. NADLER. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I gather that my name was mentioned specifically by the Chair as not being present despite the fact that I signed the letter. I point out for the record that I walked in here at 8:27 a.m., put my jacket on the chair, put my Diet Coke over here, put my papers here and walked out to the staff room. The Chairman may not have noted my presence, but I was here prior to 8:30.
Chairman SENSENBRENNER. The Chair notes your presence now. Mr. NADLER. Now, Mr. Chairman may I strike the last word?
Chairman SENSENBRENNER. Well if the gentleman does not want to listen to the witnesses, the gentlemen may strike the last word.
Mr. NADLER. I am very desirous of listening to the witnesses, and I will be very brief. I would simply observe- I would simply, first of all, second what the distinguished Ranking Minority Member said about the role of this hearing and about the breadth of it. And I would wonder why the Chairman seems so fearful of elucidating any information beyond what he thinks proper. Are we afraid of learning about this misconduct by agents of the executive branch that traduce civil liberties? If that happened, if it happened, we should know about it and we should discuss in this Committee what actions to take about it. We should not be fearful of knowledge and we should not be fearful of laying out to the American people such information, officially laying out to the American people information, the readers of much of which the readers of any newspaper in the United States or the world knows.
Much conduct has occurred, I shouldn't say that. Much conduct has allegedly occurred which, if true, disgraces this country, spoils its good name and action should be taken about that if true. And we should learn about it. And I hope we are not fearful of learning about the truth or falsity of those statements that we have all read in the general press. Thank you. I yield back.
Chairman SENSENBRENNER. The Chairman will swear the witnesses in.
Ms. JACKSON LEE. Mr. Chairman, point of order.
Chairman SENSENBRENNER. Today we are joined by Carlina Tapia Ruano, who serves as first vice-president for the American Immigration Lawyers Association. Next is Dr. James J. Zogby, president of the Arab American Institute. Deborah Pearlstein is the director of U.S. Law and Security Program, at Human Rights First. And finally Chip Pitts is chair of the board of Amnesty International USA.
I thank all of these witnesses for their attendance today and admonish the witnesses to confine their testimony pursuant to the by the Democrats calling this hearing. Would all of the witnesses please raise your right hand and stand and take the oath.
Chairman SENSENBRENNER. Let the record show that all of the witnesses answered in the affirmative. Without objection, the witnesses prepared testimony, will be included in the record at the point they give their verbal testimony. We would ask that the witnesses confine their verbal testimony to 5 minutes. And, first up is Ms. Tapia Ruano.
Ms. JACKSON LEE. Mr. Chairman, point of order.
Chairman SENSENBRENNER. Ms. Tapia Ruano is testifying. TESTIMONY OF CARLINA TAPIA RUANO, FIRST VICE-PRESI
DENT, AMERICAN IMMIGRATION LAWYERS ASSOCIATION Ms. TAPIA RUANO. Good morning. My name is Carlina Tapia Ruano. I am an immigration attorney practicing in Chicago, Ilinois. I am also the first vice-president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, a National Bar Association that represents almost 9,000 immigration lawyers and professors of immigration law. I would like to thank Chairman Sensenbrenner, and also Representative Conyers for allowing me the opportunity to address you this morning. And also the fellow Committee Members, which includes Representative Jackson Lee from Texas, who is present this morning.
I would like to talk about the PATRIOT Act and other initiatives related to the PATRIOT Act post 9/11. But let's begin with the PATRIOT Act. The American Immigration Lawyers Association is deeply troubled by some of the provisions found in this Act, such as section 411 of the act, which expands the grounds of removability and deportability for individuals that engage in conduct that we believe is constitutionally protected.
In addition, section 412 creates a certification process whereby individuals can be designated suspect terrorists without ever being formally charged as terrorists, thereby depriving these individuals from the ability to defend themselves or to explain facts that may have led to their incorrect certification. We would ask that Congress address these provisions. We understand that in a democracy, especially such as ours, which is in need of security, we must have provisions which enhance security but we would also ask that these provisions not deprive individuals of their individual rights in the process of reaching the security. These provisions in the PATRIOT Act are very troubling, but also troubling are other administrative initiatives that took place post 9/11 which are irrevocably interconnected with the PATRIOT Act and what it is attempting to achieve.
In my written testimony, I have provided an addendum that lists chronically some of these administrative initiatives.
Today I would like to just address three in particular. First, the blanket closure of administration judge's proceedings; number two, the failure to file charges against individuals being detained, in effect, indefinitely; and third, the evisceration of the Board of Immigration Appeals, the only body that reviews decisions made by the
We, the American Immigration Lawyers Association, believe that the Civil Liberties Restoration Act is a bill which should be strongly supported by Congress and it addresses fairly in a measured way these three concerns I have just addressed.
Lets go back and talk about them in a little more detail. Closing of the immigration hearings. This took place as a result of the September 21, 2001, memo by the Department of Justice, which has become known as the Creppy memo, which the Department of Justice repeatedly denied, existed for months. As a result of this memo, hearings were ordered to be held in secret, not only the hearing preventing the family members, friends, and of course, the press, from attending, but the very fact that the hearing was taking place and its location and date and its subject matter was considered a matter of secrecy.
We believe that hearings should be held open. We believe that in an open and democratic society such as ours, open hearings are a necessity. And closed hearings, such as these, are a normal tool of repressive regimes. Number 2, our concern with holding noncitizens in jail indefinitely. Again, the Department of Justice on September 20, 2001, just a day before the Creppy memo and a full month before the PATRIOT Act was enacted, authorized individuals, non-citizens, to be able to be held in custody for 48 hours, or an unspecified additional amount of time, if necessary. These are regulations that circumvent, that totally ignore congressional mandate in the very PATRIOT Act of putting a limit of 7 days to individuals who can be held in custody without charge.
The Department of Justice has not had to depend on the Immigration Agency and the PATRIOT Act and its 7-day limitation. It simply ignores them and it relies on its own regulation which results in indefinite custody. The Department of Justice's own internal report, inspector general report dated April 2003, documented that most of these post 9/11 detainees were held not only days, weeks, months in custody without being charged. Ultimately those individuals were charged with civil immigration violations. Not one was ever charged with any offense related to the 9/11 attacks.
Chairman SENSENBRENNER. Ms. Tapia Ruano, could you wrap it up? Your time is expired.
Ms. TAPIA RUANO. I would like to jump to the last concern, and that is the Board of Immigration Appeals. And I will conclude my comment with that. The Board of Immigration Appeals has, in fact, been reduced to a nonexistent body. As a result of alleged reforms, that body was dismantled, and in reducing the number of individuals that was allegedly going to reduce the backlog, all, in essence, it resulted in transferring its entire backlog to the Federal courts.
I practice in the Seventh Circuit. A circuit, which is not known to be, in the past, friendly to overturning board decisions. Yet in the last 2 years, it has been, has become renowned for overturning board decisions as a result of the lack of review that exists due to the BIA reforms. We would urge the Committee to look to policies that provide security for our country, but not ignore or trample on individual rights. Thank you for allowing me to address.
Chairman SENSENBRENNER. Thank you.