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The Republican-led House Judiciary Committee passed H.R. 2431, known to advocates as the Mass Deportation Act of 2017, this week along with two other anti-immigrant bills which would bolster Donald Trump’s mass deportation agenda. The bills, among other things, would criminalize all undocumented immigrants living in the US, mandate detention for children crossing the border to seek asylum, and force local law enforcement to double as immigration enforcement.
The bills — H.R. 2431 in particular — are beloved by the anti-immigrant extremist crowd, with NumbersUSA calling H.R. 2431 one of its “five great immigration solutions” and the Daily Caller revealing that passage of the bill was on Steve Bannon’s whiteboard weeks ago.
A number of Democratic amendments to the bill were rejected, including one that would have allowed US citizens and legal immigrants to sue the government if they were wrongly detained, another that would have prioritized the deportation of serious criminals rather than the removal of moms and dads who haven’t done anything wrong, and a third which would have officially changed the bill’s name to the “Trump Mass Deportation and Child Incarceration Act of 2017.”
Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL)’s statement about the passage of the bills highlighted the fact that Republicans aren’t doing anything to support real immigration reform with a path to citizenship, which a majority of Americans say they support. Instead, they are trying to make it easier to separate families. As he said:
[These bills] designed to make House Republicans look tough and uncompromising in opposing immigration, but in reality would undermine the civil liberties of American citizens, undercut the rule of law, and undo improvements in immigration enforcement that have contributed to historically low levels of illegal immigration in recent years…
The debate is focused exclusively on illegal immigration, not on consensus issues, ways to fix legal immigration that would end illegal immigration and increase legality and vetting. We never get a chance to legislate broadening and strengthening legal immigration so that we reduce smuggling. We need to discuss how the pretense of immigration enforcement impinges on the civil rights and civil liberties of American citizens. We never get to debate broad issues like the use of private prisons and mass incarceration for profit and the impact on children we place in prison…
When Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) offered an amendment to change the bill’s name to the ‘Trump Mass Deportation and Child Incarceration Act of 2017,’ I think she hit the nail on the head. If Republicans are proud of what they are doing, they should own up to the actual content and substance of the bill. However, they do not want to admit they are advocating for mass deportation or child incarceration, not to mention the treatment of refugees and asylum seekers fleeing violence and persecution, or victims of domestic violence who will be cut off from seeking help from law-enforcement. I am very proud of the fight that Democratic Members of the Committee put up to this awful bill. If enacted, it will weaken American communities and tear at the fabric of American life.
Meanwhile, Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) reminded everyone that immigrants contribute greatly to American society as well as the US economy, yet Republicans are trying to demonize them and make them into criminals:
Some will say this bill is needed to keep us safe. But what the bill really does is pander to the noxious notion that immigrants are criminals and should be dealt with harshly.
As we know, the truth is that immigrants commit crime at a far lower rate than the native born. They add greatly to the country’s wealth, both by working in agriculture, technology, medical care, housing, and other critical sectors of the nation’s economy, and by operating small businesses in every corner of this country.
But in Trump’s America, we are told not to trust the news, that climate change is a hoax, that less health care coverage is better health coverage, and that immigrants are dangerous.
The real danger, of course, is making policy based on alternative facts.
Based on alternative facts, this bill would turn all undocumented immigrants—including Dreamers, parents, and children—into criminals overnight. And it would empower local law enforcement with little training in the area to engage in overreaching witch-hunts replete with racial profiling and violations of our civil rights.
It is no surprise that this bill was on Steve Bannon’s white board as a priority for the Trump Administration. This bill gives Trump and Bannon the legislative authority to establish their massive “deportation force” and would turn our communities into police states overnight. This bill should really be called the “Trump Mass Deportation Act.” Because that is what it is.
Democratic members of Congress weren’t the only ones opposing the Republican bill. The sheriffs of Houston and Dallas, Texas last week published an op-ed asking Congress to oppose the Mass Deportation Act, so that local law enforcement wouldn’t be forced to double as immigration agents (thus weakening the trust between immigrants and the police). As they wrote:
We should not spend our time and taxpayers’ money apprehending and removing immigrants who are merely seeking to work or reunite with family. We can all agree that true threats to public safety and security are where state and local law enforcement should be devoting our limited resources and funding.
Going after hardworking immigrants has adverse effects that go beyond straining our budgets and manpower.
We are among many police chiefs and sheriffs around the country whose departments have spent years developing relationships of trust with our immigrant communities. We need everyone in the community, no matter where they were born, to feel comfortable calling on first responders in an emergency, including when they are a victim or witness of crime.
To put it simply, fears that law enforcement and immigration enforcement are one and the same have a chilling effect on reports of crime among minority communities. Already this year, the police chiefs in Houston and Los Angeles have said that members of the Hispanic community are calling in fewer reports of rapes, even though reports otherwise have not decreased…
The bill before the House Judiciary Committee Thursday would hurt our local efforts to keep you safe, but Congress could take other measures related to immigration that would help our safety and security, as well as uphold American values.
Among other benefits, reforms to our legal immigration process would help us focus on true threats — criminal organizations and dangerous criminals, no matter their backgrounds. Legislators also should work to update our immigration process in ways that stay true to American values, address our workforce needs and favor American workers, not unscrupulous employers.
We look forward to working with federal authorities on efforts to root out crime. But we cannot best serve our communities if we are charged with enforcing federal immigration laws.