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Senators Keep Important Due Process Protections in Immigration Bill & Reject Most Extreme Anti-Immigrant Enforcement Amendments to S.744

The Senate Judiciary Committee yesterday passed an historic amendment to Senate immigration bill S.744 limiting the use of solitary confinement in immigration detention, and kept many of the bill’s key due process and detention reforms intact.

“We are grateful to those senators who are living up to their commitments to pass an inclusive immigration bill that respects human rights,” said Heartland Alliance’s National Immigrant Justice Center (NIJC) Director of Policy Royce Bernstein Murray. “They have faced down several extreme and harsh anti-immigrant amendments—their success is a hopeful sign that the Senate is serious about passing an immigration law that keeps families together and upholds basic American principles of justice.”

Senator Richard Blumenthal’s Amendment 2, which the committee passed by voice vote, is the first federal legislation to place limitations on the length of time and circumstances under which detained immigrants can be placed in solitary confinement. NIJC obtained information last year, reported in The New York Times, which revealed that hundreds of immigrants are held in solitary confinement in immigration detention every day. The Department of Homeland Security has little oversight over how private prisons and county jails administer segregation to the men and women in their custody. The Blumenthal amendment prohibits the use of solitary in immigration detention for minors under the age of 18 and otherwise limits its use to brief periods under the least restrictive means possible, including provisions that would benefit mentally ill individuals and others who may require special protections in custody.

Senators also rejected attempts to derail S.744’s repeal of the harmful and arbitrary one-year asylum filing deadline. The committee members voted down other amendments which would have eliminated provisions guaranteeing detained immigrants’ access to bond hearings, subjected people to deportation merely for being suspected gang members, established exorbitant bonds for certain immigrants facing deportation, and made even harsher the bill’s already unprecedented criminal penalties for people who enter the U.S. unlawfully. The committee rejected three amendments that would have given states license to enact their own immigration enforcement regimes and required local police departments to enforce federal immigration laws. Additional victories came when some committee members chose not to offer harmful amendments they had previously filed, including those that would have authorized indefinite detention, eliminated alternatives to detention, or struck provisions of legal counsel for children and the mentally ill.

The Senate Judiciary Committee is expected to complete the S.744 markup process this week, and the bill will likely go to the Senate floor in June.