ICE director Sarah Saldana, sworn in during the Obama administration, submitted written testimony during an April 2016 Congressional hearing documenting that from fiscal year 2013 to 2015, over 86,000 illegal criminal aliens who had been arrested and convicted for committing a crime, were released back into the United States instead of being deported.
On May 18, 2017, U.S. House members Raul Labrador, Vice-chairman of the Immigration and Border Security Subcommittee and Bob Goodlatte, Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, introduced H.R.2431, the “Michael Davis, Jr. and Danny Oliver in Honor of State and Local Law Enforcement Act” (Davis-Oliver Act) intended to make significant inroads in turning back the effect of Obama-era immigration policies that undermined the public safety in many communities.
The Davis-Oliver Act is named after two California law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty by an illegal alien gang member who had already been deported multiple times.
Chairman Bob Goodlatte’s opening statement before taking up the Davis-Oliver Act, referred to the effect of “the Obama Administration’s neglect to enforce our immigration laws:”
Under the guise of ‘prosecutorial discretion’ and so-called ‘enforcement priorities’, removable aliens were essentially free to roam our country unless they had been convicted of an ever-narrowing list of offenses.
An important feature of the Goodlatte-Labrador bill are the provisions that go to public safety by broadening the list of deportable offenses and expanding faster deportation of criminal aliens:
The bill takes a number of steps to enhance public safety. Notably, it allows ICE to not release criminal aliens to sanctuary jurisdictions and makes criminal gang members deportable. It provides that aliens who have multiple convictions for drunk driving are deportable and ensures that unlawful immigrants convicted of drunk driving that causes death or serious bodily injury will be detained during their removal proceedings. It enhances penalties for deported felons who return to the United States. The bill protects the American public by facilitating and expediting the removal of criminal aliens. In the instance of dangerous aliens who cannot be removed from the U.S., the bill allows DHS to detain them. It also contains provisions from a bill authored by Congressman Ted Poe that penalize countries that fail to accept return of their nationals who are ordered removed from the U.S.
According to Rep. Labrador, “[o]ne of the most important aspects of immigration reform is bolstering enforcement of existing immigration law.” In that regard, the Davis-Oliver Act:
allows all ICE deportation officers and agents to carry firearms and provides them with body armor. It also provides them with much needed training to handle high-risk situations, such as executing a warrant for a dangerous criminal alien, in order to enhance safety. And it calls for the hiring of an additional 12,500 ICE officers.
Unlike the 2013 “Gang of Eight”(Go8) comprehensive immigration reform bill widely considered to grant both amnesty and a path to citizenship to illegal aliens which passed the U.S. Senate with Sen. Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker’s support, the Davis-Oliver Act focuses only on strengthening interior enforcement of the immigration laws which is considered a critical first step in restoring the rule of law. The Go8 bill was heavily promoted by the Partnership for a New American Economy whose named members include gubernatorial candidates Randy Boyd and Karl Dean along with the Nashville and Knoxville Chambers of Commerce.
A particularly welcome provision of the Davis-Oliver Act that promotes the rule of law is that it “Ends the Executive Branch’s Ability to Unilaterally Shut Down Immigration Enforcement”:
The Davis-Oliver Act removes the ability of any future President to unilaterally shut down enforcement efforts by granting states and localities specific congressional authorization to enact and enforce their own immigration laws as long as they are consistent with federal law. It also allows states and localities to assist in the enforcement of federal immigration law and includes provisions to facilitate their assistance.
Additionally, the Act expands the Visa Security Program considered a “first line of defense” for the homeland. The Labrador-Goodlatte expands the reach of the visa program to “all U.S. embassies and consular posts” using enhanced screening and review of an applicant’s social media to assess whether they are a security threat.
In 2013, Sen. Corker offered an amendment to the Go8 bill which he claimed “implement[ed] tough interior enforcement” but subsequently conceded that his amendment didn’t fix the real problems obstructing the ability of ICE to enforce immigration laws. Corker now has an opportunity to support a bill that will do that and more.