The Department of Justice is using the coronavirus outbreak to ask Congress for sweeping emergency powers including suspending habeas corpus during an emergency, a power grab that was denounced by civil liberties advocates.
The DOJ plans were reported on by Politico’s Betsy Woodruff Swan, who reviewed the request documents.
According to Swan:
“You could be arrested and never brought before a judge until they decide that the emergency or the civil disobedience is over. I find it absolutely terrifying,” National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers executive director Norman L. Reimer told Swan. “Especially in a time of emergency, we should be very careful about granting new powers to the government.”
The documents also ask for the authority to conduct videoconference hearings even without the defendant’s permission, banning people with the coronavirus from applying for asylum, and pausing the statute of limitations during an emergency.
The asylum rules, said Tahirih Justice Center CEO Layli Miller-Munro, are unnecessary and cruel.
“I think it’s a humanitarian tragedy that fails to recognize that vulnerable people from those countries are among the most persecuted and that protecting them is exactly what the refugee convention was designed to do,” said Miller-Munro.
The news sent shockwaves through the Beltway.
“This is abhorrent (also: predictable),” tweeted Economist reporter John Fasman.
According to Swan, it’s unlikely the bill will pass the Democrat-led House.
Rep. Justin Amash (I-Mich.) signaled his opposition to the bill on Twitter Saturday afternoon.
“Congress must loudly reply NO,” said Amash.
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