Sunday, February 13, 2005

A law above all laws

So the U.S. House passed HR 418 last week. And they voted against an amendment that would strip it of §102. The bill is about keeping illegal immigrants out of the country, and fighting terrorism, and instituting a national ID card. And §102 allows the Secretary of Homeland Security to break literally any laws he wants to while enforcing the legislation. Yes, you read that right. It also exempts itself from judicial review. No, I'm serious. Here's the text:
SEC. 102. WAIVER OF LAWS NECESSARY FOR IMPROVEMENT OF BARRIERS AT BORDERS. Section 102(c) of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 (8 U.S.C. 1103 note) is amended to read as follows: (c) Waiver- (1) IN GENERAL- Notwithstanding any other provision of law, the Secretary of Homeland Security shall have the authority to waive, and shall waive, all laws such Secretary, in such Secretary's sole discretion, determines necessary to ensure expeditious construction of the barriers and roads under this section. (2) NO JUDICIAL REVIEW- Notwithstanding any other provision of law (statutory or nonstatutory), no court shall have jurisdiction-- (A) to hear any cause or claim arising from any action undertaken, or any decision made, by the Secretary of Homeland Security pursuant to paragraph (1); or (B) to order compensatory, declaratory, injunctive, equitable, or any other relief for damage alleged to arise from any such action or decision.'.
This text was just approved by 261 congressmen. Was yours one of them? Here are the 243 who voted "nay" on an amendment to strip the bill of the clause in question. And here are the 261 who voted "yea" on the bill, even though the clause in question was still attached. And here's the place to write your congressman to express your disapproval if he's on those lists. Here's a statement about the bill from J. Robert Shull, Senior Regulatory Policy Analyst with OMB Watch:
"America is a nation founded on the rule of law, but apparently not when homeland security is involved. This is a license to waive any law, for any reason - or for no reason at all. "If enacted, this bill would grant the Homeland Security Secretary unbridled authority to act however he sees fit, without consequence. His actions also would be exempt from judicial review, making him unaccountable to any authority. "Laws that protect the environment, safeguard public health, ensure consumer and workplace safety, prevent unfair business practices, and ban discrimination - none of these laws, or any others, would apply to the Department of Homeland Security. "No government agency should be above the laws that preserve America's democracy."
The bill goes to the Senate now. More background information is here. Hat tip: fafblog.


  1. My understanding is that this is going to face somewhat more scrutiny in the Senate... but it's still likely to pass. ::sigh:: Go us.

  2. amazingly, it seems that my congressperson voted against a shitty law for once.

  3. oops, that was me. -- Alexis

  4. Holy crap.

    In other news, I'm Google-able! I got a Google hit from Bill Frist "abstinence only" "aids from tears". You were the one who put the "Bill Frist" in there, so thanks. What weird search parameters, though.