'Tis a good thing to have a Senator who actually represents, mostly, my views, and is responsive to my letters. Richard Durbin is a mensch. I've written multiple times to my other Senator, a Mr. Barack Obama, and gotten bupkes by way of response. Shame on you, Mr. Obama. Even Pete Fitzgerald, the former (Republican) Senator bothered to respond to my emails, even sometimes just to argue my point.
Anyway, here is what Senator Durbin ('s staff auto-letter-writing bot) writes:
Thank you for contacting me regarding H.R. 418, the REAL ID Act. I
appreciate hearing from you on this important matter.
I am concerned about several of the provisions of the REAL ID Act. While I support measures to deter illegal entry into the United States, I also believe we must preserve due process under the law and the historic separation of powers. This legislation ignored a number of the bipartisan suggestions of the 9/11 Commission and reversed some of the positive steps we made in passing the Intelligence Reform bill last year.
The Intelligence Reform bill implemented a number of the recommendations of the bipartisan 9/11 Commission. The legislation calls for the Border Patrol workforce to be increased by 2000 agents per year from 2006 through 2010. This would double the size of the Border Patrol over a five year period. It also increases the number of full-time Immigration and Customs Enforcement investigators by 800 per year from 2006 to 2010, and the number of detention beds for immigration detention and removal by 8,000 per year from 2006 to 2010. The bill also strengthens and codifies visa requirements and toughens penalties against individuals who unlawfully bring in and harbor aliens.
In contrast, some provisions of H.R. 418 are unnecessary, expensive, and dangerous. Although the REAL ID Act was offered as a means of improving identification security, it undermined the improvements in identification document security and reliability enacted in the Intelligence Reform bill. The Intelligence Reform bill not only set strict national standards for state identification documents, it also promised funds to assist states with document handling upgrades. The REAL ID Act ignored these provisions and set national standards without providing the necessary financial
resources for these costly improvements. This unfunded mandate led the National Governors Association and the National Council of State Legislatures to oppose the REAL ID Act.
Additionally, the REAL ID Act includes provisions designed to expedite the deportation process without preserving a defendant's right to a lawyer and to present his or her case in court. We can enforce our immigration laws and protect our national security without violating due process.
Lastly, I am concerned with a clause in H.R. 418 that permits the Secretary of Homeland Security to waive all laws in order to expedite the construction of barriers along any U.S. borders. Not only would this
provision grant the Secretary of Homeland Security a free hand in overriding laws and regulations, it would prevent the Judicial Branch from reviewing the actions taken by the Secretary. Such a provision would violate the system of checks and balances central to our Constitution, upset the balance of power between the branches of government, and lend
itself to abuses of power.
Although the Senate decided not to include the REAL ID Act in the Emergency Supplemental Appropriations bill, many of its provisions were added to the final version of that measure during the House-Senate conference on the bill.
Thank you again for writing and expressing your views on this issue.
Richard J. Durbin
United States Senator
P.S. If you are ever visiting Washington, please feel free to join Senator Obama and me at our weekly constituent coffee. When the Senate is in session, we provide coffee and donuts every Thursday at 8:30 a.m. as we hear what is on the minds of Illinoisans and respond to your questions. We would welcome your participation. Please call my D.C. office for more details.
emphasis added. This is a scary provision, and one I wasn't aware of. The Secretary of Homeland Security should not be above the laws of the land, under any circumstances.
Update 6-5-05: apparently, I'm not the only one to be disappointed with Senator Obama. I've written 4 or 5 letters to both of my Senators this year, Durbin responds to every one (either via email, or to my included postal address), Obama to none. I'm starting to suspect that the whole 'liberal' thing that Obama played up during election was just posturing akin to Al Gore's pretense that he was a man of the poeple at the end of the 2000 election. Bleh, politicians.
Tags: Chicago, /Current Affairs