The continued criminalization of undocumented immigrants

On Behalf of | May 20, 2017 | US Immigration Law

Changes to the nation’s immigration and enforcement laws, if not the entire apparatus continue. The latest volley by Republican lawmaker has taken the form of legislation currently going through the committee process with little notice.

Three bills currently in the House Judiciary Committee would establish new powers to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). It would call for the hiring of more deportation officials and equip them with body armor and assault rifles.

One of the bills would also focus on increased immigration enforcement, specifically transforming civil infractions to criminal violations punishable by up to 20 years in prison. Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., an opponent of the bill, claimed that it would “turn millions of Americans into criminals overnight.”

The language of one of the proposed laws is likely to create significant controversy. If passed, the proposed law would strip recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) of their protections because of their undocumented status.

The Davis-Oliver Act would cut Justice and Homeland Security grants to state and local law enforcement agencies refusing to comply with federal immigration enforcement. States would be required to provide the DHS details on all immigrants apprehended that might be deportable.

In addition, the ICE authorization bill would establish an advisory council to ensure state and local authorities continues adherence to federal immigration enforcement objectives.

Immigration advocates and legal experts claim that an “enforcement only” approach fails to address complex policy issues and will only increase the backlog in the nation’s already overwhelmed immigration courts.