Thursday, February 10, 2005


Real ID Act

The House may vote this week on HR 418, better known as the REAL ID act, which attempts to put into place a patchwork of "anti-terror" projects around the country. The Washington Post has an editorial today (Real ID, Real Problems) outlining one of the glaring flaws with the bill:
[It] contains a bizarre provision that would allow the secretary of homeland security to waive "all laws" that, in his "sole discretion," he "determines necessary to ensure expeditious construction of . . . barriers and roads" used to secure borders. . . . effectively allowing the department to put itself above any law it finds inconvenient in border security construction and explicitly stripping the courts of any review.
Not only this, but the bill (full text here) also contains language stating that:
An alien who is an officer, official, representative, or spokesman of the Palestine Liberation Organization is considered, for purposes of this Act, to be engaged in a terrorist activity.
And as such, they would be inadmissable (they could not enter the United States) and subject to deportation if they were already in the United States. So much for Abu Mazin's invitation to the White House, eh?

UPDATE (11 FEBRUARY 2005): The verdict is in! Unfortunately, the House passed the REAL ID Act by a vote of 261-161 (with 11 not voting), breaking down pretty much on party lines (219 Republicans For, 8 Against; 42 Democrats For, 152 Against).

FURTHER UPDATE (15 FEBRUARY 2005): I am informed that before the vote, the anti-PLO language was removed from the bill. Here is the statement from the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, whose hard work I am sure played some part in this action.
It’s not often that we get to celebrate victories on Capitol Hill, but this time we did it! Before the bill was voted on last Thursday, Rep. Sensenbrenner agreed to amend the bill to strike the language that would have prevented representatives of the PLO from entering the United States and would have labeled it a terrorist organization....
According to Americans for Peace Now, Reps. Lois Capps (D-CA) and Darrell Issa (R-CA) were instrumental in pressuring Rep. Sensenbrenner to drop the anti-PLO language. In addition, Reps. Sam Farr (D-CA) and John Dingell (D-MI) made strong statements (reprinted below) against the anti-PLO language on the floor of the House.

Action Requested:

Contact Reps. Capps, Issa, Farr and Dingell and thank them for their leadership in removing anti-PLO language from the Real ID Act.

Rep. Lois Capps (D-CA): (202) 225-3601
Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA): (202) 225-3906
Rep. Sam Farr (D-CA): (202) 225-2861
Rep. John Dingell (D-MI): (202) 225-4071

Statement by Rep. Sam Farr:
The effects of the REAL ID Act are not only bad for domestic politics, they are destructive for the peace process in the Middle East. The Act states: "An alien who is an officer, official, representative, or spokesman of the Palestine Liberation Organization is considered, for purposes of this Act, to be engaged in a terrorist activity." In the first place, the United States already has a formal, congressionally approved mechanism for designating foreign terrorist organizations and imposing sanctions on them. The PLO is not on the U.S. list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations. This sneaky, backdoor attempt to override the responsibility of the State Department and the will of Congress is an incredibly stupid way to execute U.S. diplomacy.

Second, we are now on the cusp of a historic moment in the Middle East peace process. The administration has promised that they will be actively engaged in the Middle East peace process. I find it hard to believe that they can be ``actively'' engaged in the peace process if the President will not be able to invite newly elected President Mahmoud Abbas to his Texas ranch, Camp David or any other location within the United States. President Abbas appears to be making considerable efforts in brokering peace, and the United States should be supporting his efforts. The effects of this provision will be a diplomatic nightmare and damage the United States's ability to be a fair broker in the peace process. This provision is an embarrassment to United States diplomacy--it is highly counterproductive to peace negotiations.

Statement by Rep. John Dingell:

I would also note that Sec. 103 specifically identifies officers, officials, representatives or spokesmen of the Palestinian Liberation Organization as terrorists, thus not able to enter the United States. Mr. Speaker, this would mean that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas would be barred from the United States. Given the great progress we have seen in the Middle East in the past week and that the Bush Administration is in the process of setting up meetings with Dr. Abbas in Washington, it hardly seems wise to pass a bill barring the newly elected President of the Palestinian Authority from the country.

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