House Passes Anti-Immigration Bills That Will Make America Less Safe

Just hours before a newly revived Muslim ban took effect, the House passed two bills specifically designed to harm undocumented immigrants already in the United States: HR 3003, or the No Sanctuary for Criminals Act, which targets Sanctuary Cities, and HR 3004, or Kate's Law, which seeks to penalize undocumented immigrants with criminal records. 


HR 3004 was sponsored by Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), most recently known for trying to gut the Office of Congressional Ethics. The bill was named for Kathryn Steinle, who was shot and killed in San Francisco in 2015 by an undocumented immigrant with a criminal record. 

As described in a statement from the White House Press Office, "H.R. 3004 would increase the penalties that may be imposed on criminal aliens convicted of illegal reentry, deterring reentry and keeping criminal aliens off our streets."

Proponents of the bill, and of VOICE (Victims of Immigrant Crime Engagement), a new division of Immigration and Customs Enforcement dedicated to a supposed epidemic of crimes by undocumented immigrants), have used Steinle's death to attack undocumented immigrants, despite scant evidence that they commit more crimes than native-born Americans do. 

The bill would also increase the U.S. prison population by at least 57,000, according to a 2015 report from the U.S. Sentencing Commission, and would cost the Bureau of Prisons $2 billion, according to Families Against Mandatory Minimums, a criminal justice organization that fought an earlier version of the bill in 2015.

HR 3003 (also sponsored by Goodlatte), or the No Sanctuary for Criminals Act, aims to punish these cities by demanding that they comply with requests from Immigration and Customs Enforcement to reveal the names and locations of undocumented immigrants. If the cities refuse to comply, the law aims to withhold federal funding from a variety of critical programs, including those that fight human trafficking, treat opioid abuse and reduce rape kit backlogs. 

Representative Joe Crowley from Queens, New York, spoke out against the bill, referencing New York City Police Commissioner James O'Neill's statement that both bills, particularly HR 3003, would "make New York City less safe than it is today." He continued, "I remind my colleagues on the other side of the aisle: 9/11 happened in my hometown. Since then, there have been no major incidents of terrorism in New York City because New York City has been able to collect information, much of it from the undocumented community, to prevent similar incidents from happening again."

By punishing the city for not complying with ICE, this bill would, according to Crowley, "withhold critical anti-terrorism funding for the home of 9/11."

Unfortunately, even invoking 9/11 couldn't prevent the passage of both bills, and activists are considering next steps to fight their passage in the Senate. 

"Speaker Ryan and his colleagues passed two bills that draw directly from the racist Trump campaign playbook—vilifying and criminalizing immigrants and the cities that seek to protect them. These two bills are unconscionable assaults on our families and our communities, and we will continue to resist efforts to pass them into law," said Javier Valdes, co-executive director of Make the Road New York. He also called on New York Republicans Dan Donovan and Peter King, who voted against the bills, to encourage their colleagues to vote against future similar bills. 

Angel Padilla, policy director at Indivisible, suggested that even though many groups are focused on the health care bill, they are equally committed to fighting anti-immigration legislation and are prepared to engage in actions against it.

"Indivisible groups are already beginning to mobilize starting in the home district of their author, Rep. Bob Goodlatte, where Roanoke Indivisible staged an action just days ago," he told AlterNet in a statement. Padilla was also adamant that the 24 Democrats who voted for the bill would face backlash, "for [breaking] their party and [siding] with Trump and his mass deportation force."

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