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Letters to the 107th Congress

December 5, 2001

Dear Representative:

I am writing on behalf of the American Bar Association to thank you for your co-sponsorship of the "Secret Evidence Repeal Act of 2001" and to ask for your continued support. This legislation, which has approximately 100 co-sponsors, would prohibit the use of evidence that is presented in camera and ex parte in all removal cases and for denial of bond and immigration benefits, including asylum.

I understand that as a result of the attacks on September 11, 2001, the nation is concerned about national security. The ABA shares that concern; however, the Secret Evidence Repeal Act would not require the release of dangerous individuals into the United States. In extraordinary cases with legitimate national security concerns, a federal court would oversee the creation of an unclassified summary of the classified evidence as it does in criminal cases under the Classified Information Procedures Act. The summary would have to be sufficient to allow the alien to defend himself or herself to substantially the same degree as if the information had been fully disclosed. The immigration proceedings would then resume on the basis of this unclassified summary. Since all cases involving classified information would go to the district court, the secret court established in the 1996 antiterrorism law would become unnecessary.

The ABA believes that no person should be deprived of liberty on the basis of evidence kept secret from them. As you can imagine, it is virtually impossible for people to defend themselves against evidence that has not been revealed to them. While "star chamber" secret proceedings may be a feature of some totalitarian governments, it is not a feature of our government. As Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter observed in Joint Anti-Facist Refugee Committee v. McGrath, "Secrecy is not congenial to truth-seeking.No better instrument has been devised for arriving at the truth than to give a person in jeopardy of serious loss notice of the case against him and the opportunity to meet it."

The Secret Evidence Repeal Act is an important step in restoring fair legal processes to our nation's immigration laws. We commend you for your co-sponsorship and we look forward to working with you to secure these vital improvements.

Sincerely,

Robert D. Evans
Director, Governmental Affairs Office

107th Congress Letters Home

AMERICAN BAR ASSOCIATION
Governmental Affairs Office
740 Fifteenth Street, NW
Washington, DC 20005
ph: 202-662-1760
fx: 202-662-1762

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