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IMMIGRATION IMPROVEMENTS



Published: Tue, July 24, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



Washington Post: The Supreme Court, at the end of its term last month, handed down two important immigration decisions, which together emphasize that federal courts will enforce minimum standards of fairness for those the government is seeking to deport. Congress in 1996 passed dreadful new rules stripping the courts of jurisdiction to review the deportations of illegal immigrants convicted of crimes and making deportation of such criminals mandatory in many cases.

This law has caused people who spent virtually their entire lives in this country to be sent abroad to lands whose languages they don't even speak. Had the court failed to act, it would have conceded virtually unlimited power over deportees to the Immigration and Naturalization Service. Instead, it ruled that the courts retained the power to hear claims by criminal aliens that their deportations would violate the law or the Constitution. And it also held that criminal aliens whose countries of origin refused to take them back could not be detained indefinitely.

Damage: The court, however, has only begun the work of repairing the damage Congress has done. Even after the decisions, illegal immigrants who committed even petty crimes are still required to be deported if they pleaded guilty after 1996 or, for technical reasons, if they didn't plead guilty but faced a jury instead. The presumption that criminal aliens should lose their ability to remain in this country is reasonable enough, but the absence of any discretion on the part of the INS to waive deportation is wrong.

Some of the crimes that trigger mandatory deportation are relatively minor compared with the compelling humanitarian reasons to let someone remain here. Where an illegal immigrant is capable of making a persuasive case that he or she should be allowed to stay, the law should not prevent the government from permitting it.

No less wrongheaded is the requirement that criminal aliens be detained while deportation proceedings against them are conducted. Many should be locked up, to be sure. But many others are neither flight risks nor dangerous, and their detention is both costly and unnecessary. Congress should restore the discretion to release such people.

Finally, Congress needs to undo some of the other provisions that strip the courts of jurisdiction to hear claims by illegal immigrants against the INS. These laws serve to shield the INS from oversight by the courts; given the agency's record, they hardly seem reasonable.

The court's decisions last month ensure that a bare minimum of judicial review remains and that illegal immigrants cannot be held forever without being indicted. They do not, however, fix the problem that Congress created with its reckless changes to the law. Congress itself still needs to do that.

MIDEAST'S RECIPE FOR DISASTER

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: You know Israelis have become desperate for relief from the smoldering war that has plagued them since last fall when rumors of an Israeli invasion of the West Bank and Gaza become too persistent and too plausible to ignore. Foreign Minister Shimon Peres and others repeatedly have been forced to deny the reports.

They surfaced last week when a British publication, Jane's Foreign Report, said Israeli authorities had prepared a detailed plan for a monthlong assault on the Palestinian Authority. PA installations would be destroyed, Palestinians would be disarmed, and PA leaders like Yasser Arafat would be ousted.

Even the most superficial analysis of this putative strategy reveals flaws so glaring that it is almost impossible to imagine how an Israeli government would consider it. Arafat's capture or ouster would enrage the Palestinians so fiercely that the present insurrection would seem like a tea party.

Grasping at straws: Perhaps rumors of an invasion were put out by the Israeli government as a way to reassure its right-wing supporters that their demands are being taken seriously. But the persistence of this report suggests that Israelis, including the government, have no idea how to end the violence. They are grasping at straws.

But even if the government did have a peace strategy, it wouldn't matter at this point, because Arafat has made it fairly obvious over the last year or so that he won't buy into any plan that requires him to make a major sacrifice -- which is to say that, in a situation that requires vision and courage, he is a coward.

An Israeli government with nothing to offer and a Palestinian leader who cannot lead and will not follow. That is a recipe for -- and virtually guarantees -- paralysis, failure and more violence.




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