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Gang Deterrence and Community Protection Act of 2005

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Location: Washington, DC


GANG DETERRENCE AND COMMUNITY PROTECTION ACT OF 2005 -- (House of Representatives - May 11, 2005)

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Mr. GOODLATTE. Madam Chairman, I rise this afternoon to support H.R. 1279, the Gang Deterrence and Community Protection Act.

I was pleased to work with the Committee on the Judiciary, and especially the gentleman from Virginia (Mr. Forbes), my good friend, to support the legislation on the floor today.

According to the Justice Department, there are currently over 25,000 gangs and over 750,000 gang members who are active across the United States. Gang activity has been directly linked to the proliferation of illegal drugs, human trafficking, and many other violent crimes.

The Gang Deterrence and Community Protection Act will authorize funds for joint Federal, State, and local gang investigation prosecution; create a statute to prosecute criminal gang enterprises similar to the existing RICO statute used to prosecute Federal racketeering; create mandatory minimum sentencing for gang and violent crimes; and fund gang investigation technology to allow law enforcement to act more efficiently.

Madam Chairman, many headlines of late have reflected on growing gang problems in heavily populated areas. Unfortunately, gang violence is also on the rise in rural areas, including my congressional district. The disturbing news that it is spreading through the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia is indeed disturbing. In fact, the FBI has recognized the existence of at least six separate gangs in the valley, some of which are responsible for at least two gang-related murders in the past 2 years.

Madam Chairman, acknowledging the reality that gangs are no longer limited solely to urban areas, I am pleased to join my colleagues to support this gangbusters legislation. This legislation will allow us to meet the increase in gang activity with resources sufficient to combat this scourge in our communities, and I urge my colleagues to support this important legislation.

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AMENDMENT NO. 7 OFFERED BY MR. GOODLATTE

Mr. GOODLATTE. Mr. Chairman, I offer an amendment.

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Mr. GOODLATTE. Mr. Chairman, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

I rise to offer an amendment to crack down on gangs comprised of illegal aliens, such as MS-13, which Newsweek recently called "the most dangerous gang in America."

In my congressional district alone, we have recently witnessed a disturbing rise in the level of gang activity as well as the number of illegal aliens participating in this gang activity. The FBI has recognized the existence of at least six separate gangs in the Shenandoah Valley, with the largest being the notorious Salvadoran gang Mara Salvatrucha, or MS-13. MS-13 is known for such heinous crimes as shootings, rapes and machete attacks, among others, and is estimated to have over 1,500 members in northern and northwestern Virginia alone.

The number of gang members and violent criminals who are illegal aliens and who have been previously deported is staggering. Recently, at the Immigration, Border Security, and Claims Subcommittee, Commonwealth's Attorney Marsha Garst of Rockingham County, Virginia, testified that illegal aliens make up 50 percent of the membership of MS-13 and 75 percent of the membership of another gang in that area, Surenos 13.

According to the FBI, MS-13 is a highly sophisticated gang of illegal and previously deported aliens that is committed to national expansion in the United States and is built on a infrastructure which transports new members or previously deported members across our borders with the intention and plan to expand their activities into new communities and enrich themselves all at the expense of our communities and our law-abiding neighbors. Make no mistake about it: MS-13 is committed to a war by invading and taking over our communities, and deportation means nothing to them because they simply return to our country with yet another new identity, crossing our borders without any reservation and resuming their illegal activities, terrorizing our communities without fear of harsh punishment.

It is now time for us to disable MS-13 and its vicious cycle of violence. My amendment does just that. It gives law enforcement the ability to tack on more severe punishments rather than simply returning MS-13 members to El Salvador or other countries where they will turn around and sneak right across our borders once again. If faced with a choice of putting these gang members in jail or deporting them and having them return, the choice is clear: We must incarcerate them and bring freedom back to our neighborhoods.

The growth in illegal alien participation gangs is not limited to Virginia or just to MS-13. Across the Nation, the number of illegal aliens joining gangs and the number of gang members who have re-entered the country after deportation is alarming. According to the testimony of Heather MacDonald of the Manhattan Institute, a confidential California Department of Justice study reported in 1995 that 60 percent of the 20,000-strong "18th Street gang" in Southern California was illegal. Immigration and Customs Enforcement conservatively puts the number of illegal aliens in MS-13 as a majority. Sixty percent of the leadership of the "Colombia Lil' Cycos" gang, which uses murder and racketeering to control the drug market around Los Angeles' MacArthur Park, consisted of illegal aliens in 2002. And according to the Los Angeles Times, the Los Angeles Department arrests about 2,500 criminally convicted deportees annually. Let me make that clear: Annually, the Los Angeles Police Department estimates that 2,500 of the people that they arrest each year have already previously committed a crime and already previously been deported, and they have come back into the country, and 2,500 of them are arrested yet again.

My amendment would help to stop the entry and re-entry of gang members into the country by imposing strict penalties on illegal aliens who participate in gang activities and who have already shown they will commit violent crimes and drug-trafficking offenses. With stiff new penalties, we can deter these gang members from re-entering the United States with the intention of joining or resuming violent gang activities.

Specifically, my amendment would add 5 years of prison time to any sentence for violent crimes or drug-trafficking offenses when the violator is an illegal alien. It will also add 15 years of prison time to any such sentence if the illegal alien had been previously deported on the grounds of a criminal offense and had re-entered the country. In addition, the amendment would require the Department of Homeland Security to send all the names of individuals who are subject to deportation orders or who have signed voluntary deportation orders to the National Crime Information Center, the NCIC, so that information on illegal alien gang members can be more easily accessed.

We must shut down this revolving door of criminal illegal aliens. It is time to say to them, if they come here illegally and commit a gang crime, they will do the time. Our children and our communities deserve nothing less.

This amendment will give law enforcement additional tools in the fight against some of the most vicious gangs in America and will help deter violent criminals from entering the country to join gangs.

I urge my colleagues to support this commonsense amendment.

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Mr. CONYERS. Mr. Chairman, could I ask the distinguished author of this amendment if this idea occurred to him during the time that we considered the bill in the Committee on the Judiciary? Because I have never heard of this before.

Mr. GOODLATTE. Mr. Chairman, will the gentleman yield?

Mr. CONYERS. I yield to the gentleman from Virginia.

Mr. GOODLATTE. Mr. Chairman, this is something that has been discussed since the committee acted and passed the legislation out, but we felt very strongly that this would be a good addition to the legislation because of the fact that so many of these gang members are illegal aliens who have re-entered the country after already having been deported and having committed crimes earlier. Something needs to be done more than simple deportation when they come right back in and commit more crimes.

Mr. CONYERS. Mr. Chairman, reclaiming my time, but we are trying to get rid of criminals from coming into the country, and what the gentleman is doing in this amendment is keeping them in the country. In other words, deporting them is not good enough. We want to keep them in our prison systems, which now house more citizens, and now, we are adding noncitizens to the population of those incarcerated in America. And I have some reservations about piling it on. We have never talked about this position before in the subcommittee or full committee of the Committee on the Judiciary.

Mr. Chairman, I thank the gentleman for yielding me this time to make that observation.

Mr. GOODLATTE. Mr. Chairman, I yield myself 30 seconds.

Mr. Chairman, the fact of the matter is that this has a great deterrent effect. When the word gets out that they come back into this country and they get arrested after they have been deported and they are going to do serious time in the slammer, they are not as likely to come back. And with the efforts that are ongoing with the REAL ID Act, we are going to keep a lot of these people out of the country with that method, and we are going to find them when they come into the country and try to get driver's licenses. But when they do, they need to know that they are going to face serious time.

Mr. Chairman, I yield 2 ½ minutes to the gentleman from Virginia (Mr. Wolf), a real leader in the war against gangs in America.

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Mr. GOODLATTE. Mr. Chairman, I yield myself the balance of my time.

The gentleman from Virginia (Mr. Wolf) is exactly right, as is the chairman. Here we have a Los Angeles Times story: "Four presidents seek help in gang battle. Central American leaders say the groups pose a hemispheric threat augmented by U.S. deportation of criminals."

You cannot keep sending them back down there where they have no ability to handle them and they come right back up here and commit more crimes on our citizens. This is an important amendment that will give teeth to the message: do not come back in the United States. If you do, we are going to keep you in the slammer.

There are many, many examples of what illegal aliens have done. In Virginia, recent gang victims have been hacked by machetes and had fingers cut off. In May 2004, a 16-year-old boy in Fairfax County had several fingers chopped off in an attack by a machete-wielding assailant. A week later, a 17-year-old youth was shot dead in Herndon by an assailant on a bicycle. In July 17, 2003, in Shenandoah County, Virginia, MS-13 gang members violently murdered a 17-year-old pregnant Federal witness, Brenda Paz, before she could testify in a pending Federal trial in the Eastern District of Virginia against MS-13.

Send these guys to jail when they come back into this country after being deported. I urge my colleagues to support the amendment.

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