Last week, a flawed and troubling human smuggling and terrorism bill (The Alien Smuggling and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2009, H.R. 1029) passed the House.
The bill means to revise alien smuggling and other related criminal offense penalty provisions; however, the bill includes three provisions which FCNL finds particularly troubling.
First, the bill penalizes the "smuggling" of an immediate family member with up to a year in prison per person brought into the country. This means that--while an individual crossing without inspection would only be charged with a civil violation--a mother carrying her two children could be charged with up to two years in prison. This provision goes against the principle of family unity which should be the cornerstone of our immigration system.
Second, the bill fails to protect humanitarian organizations working on the border or in the desert from being criminally prosecuted for smuggling and harboring. Current law provides an exemption for certain religious organizations providing relief--domestic violence shelters, medical clinics, soup kitchens, and other emergency relief--to people in distress. For many undocumented immigrants, they have no one else to turn to. By not providing such an exemption, this bill criminalizes humanitarian and religious organizations for providing desperately needed aid.
Third, the bill creates a statutory requirement to check an individual's ID against the error-ridden Terrorist Watch Lists. These lists are filled with the names of innocent U.S. citizens, many of whom were placed on these lists for participation in peace and anti-war movements. Such a list should not be used to identify terrorist until it has been thoroughly scrubbed of its errors.
We hope that the Senate will correct such problematic legislation before moving it forward.