by Jeremy Leaming
It seems whenever given the opportunity to weaken the judiciary, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) runs with it and in the process spreads lots of misinformation about the federal courts.
Grassley, who has helped his Republican colleagues in the Senate block or slow-walk President Obama’s judicial nominees, has called for cutting the number of judges on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, discussed here.
Now as the Senate Judiciary Committee begins consideration of the bipartisan comprehensive immigration bill, S. 744, the Ranking Member Grassley has offered 77 amendments to the legislation. Among them is one, dubbed Grassley17, which would isolate immigration court rulings from federal court review. As it stands now, the bill provides for some judicial review. For example, individuals denied citizenship could seek review in a district court or court of appeals pursuant to the Administrative Procedures Act.
But Grassley’s effort to alter the comprehensive immigration measure would close the door to federal courts, except for one – in Washington, D.C. and only for review of constitutional challenges. Thus if immigration judges improperly deny or revoke citizenship, their actions will largely go unchallenged.
Not only is Grassley’s effort an affront to judicial review, it is, let’s be honest, a part of a wider attempt to greatly slow or scuttle immigration reform. S. 744 is a rather large bill and far from perfect. It includes stringent enforcement provisions including billions of dollars for the Department of Homeland Security to spend on border enforcement. It also requires undocumented immigrants to wait at least 10 years until they can apply for legal residence and another three years until naturalization, according to The New York Times.
But senators have offered more than 300 amendments to the immigration reform bill. Seth Freed Wessler of ColorLines says the Republican amendments “would largely gut the promise of a path to citizenship and impose nearly unachievable benchmarks for border security.” Nonetheless Wessler notes Democrats control the committee and are thus likely to hold off many of the amendments. Wessler though notes some of Grassley’s other amendments, such as one that would strike language aimed at protecting “immigrants from being deported because” of anti-immigrant laws, such as the one enacted by Arizona.
Grassley’s slew of amendments has also caught the attention of Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, which says he is “now leading the anti-immigrant charge.”
“One of Grassley’s amendments would prohibit immigrants from returning to the United States after traveling home for a family emergency,” the group states. “Another could lead to more broken families and more deportations by limiting judicial discretion when deciding individual enforcement cases. A third amendment proposed by Grassley would allow federal officials to racially profile visa applicants.”
Of course Grassley is not the only Republican senator to flood the Judiciary Committee with crazed and cruel amendments. Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) has offered 49 amendments to the bill. The Huffington Post notes one of them would make the path to citizenship for undocumented people outrageously expensive. The amendment, The Post reports, would require undocumented immigrants “to prove they have an average annual income four times higher than the federal poverty line, which, for a family of four is more than $94,000.” Freshman Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) is pushing an amendment that would essentially militarize the Southern border. For more on the flood of amendments, see this piece by Adam Serwer. The Senate Judiciary Committee’s website is tracking the filing and consideration of the amendments.
While Grassley has played a significant role in slowing judicial nominations, helping to create a vacancy crisis on the federal bench, he’s also putting his back, once again, into defeating consideration of long overdue comprehensive immigration reform.
[image via Gage Skidmore]