Labor, immigrant rights groups oppose Real ID Act

Labor and immigrant rights organizations assembled at San Jose’s State Building April 7 to kick off national days of action against the Bush administration’s virulently anti-immigrant Real ID Act, now pending in the Senate. They urged a flood of calls and faxes to California Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer, neither of whom have expressed a position on the measure.

“The Real ID Act challenges all the ideals that this country was founded on,” said Hong-An Tran, federal policy analyst at the San Jose-based SIREN (Services, Immigrant Rights, and Education Network). The act “bypasses our democratic legislative system, it undermines the American value of being the haven for asylum seekers, and it divides communities,” she added.

Joining Tran in the press conference were representatives of American Muslim Voice, African Refugee Community Services, the Asian Law Alliance, ACLU of Northern California, the South Bay Labor Council and Santa Clara Building and Construction Trades Council.

The bill, tacked onto a war-appropriations measure, passed the House in February. Similar legislation is working its way through the Senate and may be attached to appropriations for the Iraq war or for tsunami relief. The Bush administration claims the bill is necessary to protect national security. But at a town hall meeting on immigration in Oakland April 2, Congresswoman Barbara Lee called the Real ID Act “another example of playing on fear and scapegoating immigrants,” and urged its defeat in the Senate.

The bill would let government officials require applicants for asylum to get written confirmation for their claims from the same governments they are fleeing. It would expand the Patriot Act to permit lawful residents to be deported for providing nonviolent, humanitarian support to organizations later labeled “terrorist” by the government, even if such support was entirely legal when provided. The act would also require applicants for drivers’ licenses to verify citizenship or permanent resident status even when such a restriction violates state laws.