Speech by Senator Reed to the United States Senate on the REAL ID Act
WASHINGTON -- Senator Jack Reed: The Emergency Supplemental bill we are considering today provides needed funding for our men and women in uniform who are engaged in combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as emergency assistance for the victims of the Tsunami. This is aid and assistance cannot wait because it is a demonstration of our nations good will towards those who have been devastated by natural disasters, and also our commitment to our soldiers in combat.These noble goals are unfortunately tainted by the decision of the Republican leadership to include a controversial piece of legislation known as the REAL ID Act, in this must pass legislation. This kind of backdoor legislating is symptomatic of the Majoritys near total disregard for the precedents and procedures of the Senate that have served our nation so well for so long. I hope that the American people realize that this maneuver is yet another example of the Majoritys desire to pass the most controversial legislation by sliding it into a bill which cannot be amended and is subject to only an up-or-down vote.With no Senate debate and very little review, the REAL ID Act makes significant and harmful changes to our nations immigration system as well as our system of driver licensing. Like many, I believe that immigration is an issue we cannot and should not ignore. However, the REAL ID Act is not the comprehensive immigration reform that we have gone far too long without. Instead, it vastly alters our nations established asylum procedure, placing the burden of proof on the applicant by requiring them to document their torture or persecution. Potential asylum seekers are already thoroughly investigated, and those suspected of engaging in terrorist activities are already prohibited from being granted asylum under our current system. Yet, the REAL ID Act will make it increasingly difficult for those escaping political persecution and torture to seek refuge.In addition, the REAL ID Act would suspend habeas corpus review of orders of removal for aliens in the United States. Essentially, this change eliminates the right of an alien facing deportation to ask a court to review their deportation, a right which the Supreme Court has already upheld. This provision will prevent an innocently detained alien the opportunity to plea his case before a judge. This goes against a core principle upon which our nation was founded.It is unfortunate that these unsound provisions will be enacted as part of this bill. It is my hope that in the very near future, we will be able to have a national discussion on immigration in a comprehensive, thoughtful, and deliberate way that will provide real solutions to real problems. It is not possible to solve our immigration problems by simply removing those who seek legitimate help from our nation, or by raising the bar for those who are immigrating here legally. As a nation of immigrants and a global leader on human rights, the inclusion of the REAL ID Act in this bill and in this manner is unacceptable, and I will work with like-minded colleagues to reverse this law.