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Bills Would Authorize Reform of Key Immigration Agencies

The House Committee on the Judiciary today marked up the Michael Davis, Jr. and Danny Oliver In Support of State and Local Law Enforcement Act (HR 2431), legislation that would “decisively deliver the immigration enforcement tools that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), its officers and all of us need in order to showthe obstructionists, the criminal aliens and all those who benefit from a culture of lawlessness that breaking our immigration laws will no longer be tolerated,” said committee chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA).

The bill “is named after two law enforcement officers who were murdered by an illegal alien,” Goodlatte said, adding, “I know we were all deeply honored to have their widows attend the State of the Union Address as guests of President Trump.”

The committee also completed mark-up of two other bills that would have significant, negative implications for immigrant communities and the rule of law. The bills are the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Authorization Act of 2017 (HR 2406) and the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services Authorization Act (HR 2407).

The bills would authorize and reauthorize key immigration component agencies at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to ensure the nation’s immigration laws are enforced and maintain the generosity and integrity of America’s legal immigration system, Goodlatte’s office said.

The US Immigration and Customs Enforcement Authorization Act would authorize ICE for the first time in law and ensure its core mission is the enforcement of our nation’s immigration laws.

“Notably, the bill makes targeted reforms to both Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and Enforcement and Removal Operations(ERO) within ICE to maximize their efficiency and effectiveness. It also codifies the Victims of Immigration Crime Engagement Office (VOICE), an office created by the Trump administration to provide access to information and resources to victims of crimes committed by removable aliens as well as to the families of victims,” an announcement stated.

Goodlatte said the, “Michael Davis, Jr. and Danny Oliver in Support of State and Local Law Enforcement Act would provide “DHS, and specifically ICE, with the tools it needs to protect our communities and enforce our immigration laws in the way Congress always intended. In addition, it reverses disastrous policies by the previous administration and ensures they are never again instituted by another administration.”

The bill would also give “states and localities the explicit congressional authorization the Supreme Court requires for them to enact and enforce their own immigration laws, provided that they are consistent with federal law, and robustly assist in the enforcement of federal law,” Goodlatte said, noting, “Real immigration reform needs to have a mechanism to prevent any president, acting alone, from simply turning off the switch on enforcement. This bill ensures that when the federal government fails to act, states can, if they so choose, pick up the slack.”

“HR 2431 takes giant steps in protecting jurisdictions that comply with detainers so that ICE can take custody of removable aliens they have arrested – such as by protecting them from abusive lawsuits. And it makes clear that sanctuary jurisdictions will face the consequences of their irresponsible and unlawful actions, such as by losing federal law enforcement and homeland security grants and by becoming liable for damages to the victims of crimes committed by the aliens they have released,” Goodlatte said, adding, “By expanding the types of serious criminal activity for which we can remove aliens, including drunk driving, failure to register as a sex offender and criminal gang membership, the bill sends a strong message that criminal aliens will not get a free pass.”

“HR 2431 is a comprehensive enforcement package that provides ICE and our states with the tools and the congressional blessing to bolster current immigration enforcement efforts and reverse the non-enforcement of the past,” Goodlatte said.

Goodlatte noted that, “In the 100 days since President Trump signed Executive Orders making sense of our nation’s immigration enforcement priorities, Immigration and Customs Enforcement has increased immigration arrests 38 percent over the same period last year. Nearly 75 percent of the arrests were of convicted criminals. The combination of revised enforcement priorities and actual enforcement has had significant results. In February, the Border Patrol recorded a 40 percent drop in unlawful entrants along our borders.”

Goodlatte further stated that, “After eight years of neglect by the Obama administration, the realization that the Department of Homeland Security will actually enforce our immigration laws has made aliens think twice about violating our borders and our immigration laws. And it was said that trying to control our borders was simply tilting at windmills.

“These promising signs must be accompanied by Congress giving immigration officers the additional tools they vitally need to do their jobs and keep themselves safe. If we act responsibly, we will conclusively demonstrate that this country will not tolerate the flagrant disregard of our laws and our hospitality, especially by those who threaten our safety and security.

“For too long, the administration has viewed immigration enforcement with disdain and its own immigration officers with contempt. Under the Obama administration, the number of removals from the interior of the United States declined precipitously, as did the number of removals of criminal aliens, despite ever-increasing resources and inexplicable reports to the contrary. Under the guise of ‘prosecutorial discretion’ and so-called ‘enforcement priorities.’ removable aliens were essentially free to roam our country unless they had been convicted of an ever-narrowing list of offenses.

“Through the use of unconstitutional Executive Orders to create a Congress of one, President Obama substantially hobbled ICE’s enforcement capabilities and prevented its dedicated public servants from carrying out their critical mission.

“We are still feeling the effects of years of non-enforcement. In March, in my own district, a Lynchburg teenager was murdered by gang members believed to be in this country illegally. Even more disturbing, one of the alleged killers had an outstanding warrant in connection with a previous murder in Maryland. As killers and other dangerous individuals walk free, sanctuary jurisdictions that were encouraged to obstruct immigration enforcement by the previous administration hold resolute in their conviction that immigration enforcement is wrong. This country is in desperate need of new statutory tools to enforce our immigration laws.”

[Editor’s note: See past Homeland Security Today reporting on criminal illegal aliens]

Not everyone agrees with the bills. Ronald Newman, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) policy counsel, said, “If enacted, the bills would raise a host of constitutional concerns, undermining public safety and harming immigrants and US citizens alike. They would also lead to significant, unnecessary federal spending and erode US values and norms. They would provide rocket fuel for President Trump’s mass deportation agenda.”

“It’s extremely disappointing that President Trump’s anti-immigrant agenda is being given airtime in Congress,” he said. “Since our nation’s inception, immigrants have been at the very heart of our identity. The ACLU urges Congress to reject these misguided bills and work on enacting policies that are inclusive, and uphold our constitutional norms and values.”

The ACLU claimed the “bills would expand mandatory detention and detention without bond hearings in ways that have previously drawn scrutiny from the courts, ignoring the fact that many immigrants present no public safety risk andhave long-standing ties to local communities. In pushing states and localities to adopt their own civil and criminal immigration laws and to enforce federal laws, these bills would lead to a patchwork of immigration rules and set the stage for racial profiling and unfair treatment of immigrants and citizens.”

The bills also “would further limit access to court for immigrant populations, dismissing due process norms,” ACLU added, saying, “They would also usher in odd, blanket requirements for immigration agents to be issued assault rifles, militarizing US communities. Other controversial elements include the permanent establishment of a ‘VOICE’ office purportedly meant to serve crime victims, yet clearly designed to stir animus towards immigrants, and an E-Verify system for checking work authorization that is ineffective and error-prone.”

Homeland Security Todayhttp://www.hstoday.us
The Government Technology & Services Coalition's Homeland Security Today (HSToday) is the premier news and information resource for the homeland security community, dedicated to elevating the discussions and insights that can support a safe and secure nation. A non-profit magazine and media platform, HSToday provides readers with the whole story, placing facts and comments in context to inform debate and drive realistic solutions to some of the nation’s most vexing security challenges.

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