|For Immediate Release
June 18, 2013
Contact: Kathryn Rexrode or Jessica Collins, (202) 225-3951
House Judiciary Committee Approves Interior Enforcement Bill
Washington, D.C. – The House Judiciary Committee tonight approved legislation in a vote of 20-15 to provide a robust interior enforcement strategy and strengthen the security of our country and communities. The Strengthen and Fortify Enforcement Act (H.R. 2278), also known as the SAFE Act, is one of several bills the House Judiciary Committee has proposed to address various issues within our immigration system and is a critical component of immigration reform.
The SAFE Act improves the interior enforcement of our immigration laws by granting states and localities the authority to enforce federal immigration laws. The bill strengthens national security by increasing border security, making it more difficult for foreign nationals who pose a national security risk to enter and remain in the U.S., improving visa security in high risk countries, and protecting American communities from dangerous criminal aliens. House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) and Immigration and Border Security Subcommittee Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-S.C), chief sponsor of the SAFE Act, praised today’s Committee vote.
Chairman Goodlatte: “In 1986, Americans were promised tough interior enforcement of our immigration laws but that promise was never kept. Today, nearly 30 years later, this Committee has approved its first immigration bill for this Congress, which delivers an actual robust interior enforcement strategy that Americans demand. Broken promises have led to a broken immigration system but today we fulfill a longstanding promise to the American people by passing the SAFE Act.
“Under the SAFE Act, the Obama Administration and future Administrations will no longer be able to unilaterally turn-off the enforcement of our immigration laws. The SAFE Act maintains the integrity of our immigration system by granting states and local governments the authority to enforce federal immigration laws. The bill also strengthens national security and protects our communities from those who wish to cause us harm.
“While more work has yet to be done, today’s approval of the SAFE Act brings us one step closer to solving the immigration puzzle. We have, and will continue, to take a step by step approach to immigration reform, thoroughly examining each piece in detail and working to find consensus on the other issues we need to fix.”
Subcommittee Chairman Gowdy: “Ensuring public safety and protecting national security must be the primary objective of immigration reform. Our history of selective enforcement of immigration laws has made our nation vulnerable, threatening the wellbeing of every citizen.
“The SAFE Act represents a common sense approach to the enforcement of our nation’s laws. Utilizing the law enforcement infrastructure existing in every state and community across this country to support enforcement efforts increases accountability and effectiveness, while using resources wisely.
“America is a nation of laws and a democracy comprised of a people who have a deep and abiding respect for the rule of law. The passage of the SAFE Act by the House Judiciary Committee is the first step in a larger reform process.”
Components of the SAFE Act:
Grants States and Localities the Authority to Enforce Immigration Laws: The bill grants states and localities specific congressional authorization to assist in the enforcement of federal immigration law and includes provisions to facilitate their assistance. It also allows states and localities to enact and enforce their own immigration laws as long as they are consistent with federal law. In addition, the bill withholds specific grants from sanctuary cities that defy federal immigration enforcement efforts.
Strengthens National Security: The bill makes it more difficult for foreign terrorists and other foreign nationals who pose national security concerns to enter and remain in the United States. Of note, the bill bars foreign terrorists or removable immigrants who threaten national security from receiving immigration benefits, such as naturalization and discretionary relief from removal, among other things. The bill also requires that no immigration benefits can be provided to immigrants until all required background and security checks are completed.
Protects American Communities from Dangerous Criminal Aliens: The bill protects the American public by facilitating and expediting the removal of criminal aliens. In the instance a dangerous criminal immigrant cannot be removed from the U.S., the bill allows the Department of Homeland Security to detain them. It also keeps our streets safe by providing for mandatory detention of unlawful immigrants who have been convicted of DUI.
Improves Visa Security: The bill improves our nation’s first line of defense, the visa issuance process. The bill expands the Visa Security Program to additional high risk posts, strengthens the integrity of the student visa program, and authorizes the Department of Homeland Security and State Department to revoke visas to foreign nationals if in the security or foreign policy interests of the U.S., among other provisions.
Helps ICE Officers Better Do Their Jobs: The bill assists U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers in carrying out their jobs of enforcing federal immigration laws by strengthening their ability to make arrests for immigration violations. The bill also allows them to carry firearms and provides them body armor.
Strengthens Border Security: The bill prohibits the Departments of Interior and Agriculture from preventing Border Patrol agents access to federal lands within 100 miles of the border. This will better enable Border Patrol agents to secure our border and prevent illegal activity, such as illegal immigration, smuggling, and drug trafficking. It also prohibits the interference of Border Patrol activities, such as construction and maintenance of roads and barriers, use of patrol vehicles, and deployment of tactical infrastructure.
Reviews Administration’s Abuse of Prosecutorial Discretion: The bill requires a report to Congress each year on the abuse of prosecutorial discretion by the Administration.