Border Security Subcommittee Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) today introduced a bill to improve the interior enforcement of our immigration laws and strengthen national security. Specifically, the Strengthen and Fortify Enforcement Act (H.R. 2278) also known as the SAFE Act, grants states and localities the authority to enforce federal immigration laws, makes it more difficult for foreign nationals who pose a national security risk to enter and remain in the U.S., improves visa security, protects American communities from dangerous criminal aliens, strengthens border security, and equips our immigration enforcement officers to better do their jobs.
The SAFE Act is one of several bills the House Judiciary Committee has introduced to help address various issues within our immigration system. Below are statements from Chairman Goodlatte, an original cosponsor, and Subcommittee Chairman Gowdy, the sponsor of the SAFE Act, on the bill's introduction.
Subcommittee Chairman Gowdy: "Robust internal immigration enforcement, paired with border security, is our safeguard against repeating the mistakes of 1986. The SAFE Act is a critical step in our efforts to fix our broken immigration system and ensures we will not be having this conversation again in 10, 20, or 30 years.
"Government's first duty is public safety, but under this Administration, we have seen our immigration laws go unenforced, gaps in our national security persist, and criminal aliens released on to our streets. This current state of affairs cannot continue, and Congress must establish accountability measures so the immigration laws we pass will in fact be enforced. The SAFE Act will prevent this and future Administrations from skirting responsibility and unilaterally halting enforcement of our immigration laws."
Chairman Goodlatte: "Interior enforcement of our immigration laws is critical to the success of our immigration system. One reason why our immigration system is broken today is because past and present Administrations have largely ignored the enforcement of our immigration laws. If we want to avoid the mistakes of the past, we cannot allow the President to continue turning-off federal immigration enforcement efforts unilaterally. This legislation is a game changer.
"The SAFE Act shows how to avoid the mistakes of the past with regard to immigration law enforcement, especially the 1986 immigration law. The bill grants states and local governments the authority to enforce federal immigration laws. Local law enforcement officials are already on the ground in their communities and it makes sense to capitalize on their abilities to enforce our laws, including those pertaining to immigration. The bill also strengthens national security and protects our communities from those who wish to cause us harm. The SAFE Act provides a robust interior enforcement strategy that will maintain the integrity of our immigration system for the years to come."
Original cosponsors of the SAFE Act include Reps. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), Lamar Smith (R-Texas), Randy Forbes (R-Va.), Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), Rob Bishop (R-Utah), Howard Coble (R-N.C.), Ted Poe (R-Texas), Lynn Westmoreland (R-Ga.), Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wisc.), Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), Doug Collins (R-Ga.), Rob Woodall (R-Ga.), Mick Mulvaney (R-S.C.), Trent Franks (R-Ariz.), Steve Pearce (R-N.M.), and Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.).
Key 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.
· 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 allowing them to make arrests for immigration violations, federal felonies, federal criminal offenses for bringing in and harboring unlawful immigrants, and offenses against the U.S. 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.