House Votes to Cut Funding for Secret Evidence Jailings in Clear Rebuke to INS
Washington D.C., June 23 — Yesterday, June 22, the House of Representatives voted by 239 – 173 to cut $173,480, the average cost of a secret evidence detention from federal prison funding. This amendment to the current appropriations bill, H.R.4690, was offered by Rep. Tom Campbell (R-CA). It is a further step in the campaign to end the process by which the Justice Department has incarcerated dozens of non-citizens since 1996 without charge and on the basis of evidence withheld from them, their attorneys and the public. Almost all victims of secret evidence have been of Arab ethnicity and/or Muslim religious affiliation.
Amendment no. 19 to HR 4690 “reduces Federal Prison System Salaries and Expenses funding by $173,480, the average cost of incarcerating the non-citizens currently detained when the INS denied bond, asylum, or other relief based on secret evidence.” It is a clear symbolic rebuke from the House to the Justice Department and INS for their continued use of this process, which had been found by four District court judges to be a violation of constitutional protections of due process. It is also another step in the campaign to completely abolish the use of secret evidence in American courts. HR 2121, the Secret Evidence Repeal Act, which was introduced by Campbell and House Minority Whip David Bonior (D-MI) and has over 90 cosponsors, would abolish all uses of secret evidence.
The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), the nation’s largest Arab-American grassroots organization, welcomes the House vote as an important symbolic victory against the abuse of secret evidence trials. But such largely symbolic resolutions must lead to the complete abolition of secret evidence. Among the resolutions adopted by the Board of Directors of ADC at the ADC National Convention June 8-11 include a commitment “to do everything in its power to abolish the use of secret evidence in American courts, and to that end promote passage of H.R. 2121.” The resolution states that “the disparate impact of secret evidence use constitutes not only a form of ethnic and religious discrimination, and a violation of individual constitutional rights, but also an impediment to free speech in the Arab-American community. The use of secret evidence in deportation proceedings, or any other aspect of the American judicial system, is in violation of constitutional rights and is an affront to the standards of fairness which characterize the US legal system.”
ADC Chair Naila Asali said “We congratulate the House on this significant vote. We urge all members of Congress to support HR2121 and end the abuse of secret evidence once and for all.”