Sheriffs, Law Enforcement Groups Unite Against Senate Immigration Bill

As the Senate prepares to conduct its markup of the “Gang of Eight” immigration bill on Thursday, sheriffs and other law enforcement officials have joined forces to oppose the legislation on the grounds that it, in their opinion, makes the current system of immigration law worse than it would “be a significant barrier to the creation of a safe and lawful system of immigration.”

In a letter (below) that was delivered to every member of Congress in both the House and the Senate on Thursday, National Association of Former Border Patrol Officers chairman Zack Taylor, National Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Council president Chris Crane and at least 30 sheriffs nationwide argued the bill would make America’s broken immigration laws worse off than they already are. 

“Driven by mere speculation that S. 744 may be enacted by Congress, illegal border crossings have spiked dramatically,” the law enforcement figures wrote. 

“Thousands of unaccompanied children, runaways, and families now attempt to illegally enter the United States in hopes of receiving legalization. This trend will surely continue after enactment as S. 744 provides no commitment of stronger border enforcement for at least five to ten years following the initial legalization phase. Thousands will be victimized or perish as they attempt the treacherous crossing into the United States in hopes of attaining legal status. Cut-off dates established in S. 744 will mean little to those in other countries who are unfamiliar with the 867-page bill.”

In addition to the safety and security risks of the ongoing rush of illegal immigrants on the border, the law enforcement community representatives point out that the Rubio-Schumer bill “provides no guarantee of increased border security.”

“Instead, it relinquishes Congress’ authority to establish border security measures to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), which will then develop its own unilateral border security plan,” they wrote. 

“DHS is then permitted to measure its own successes and failures after implementing that plan. Clearly recognizing the high probability that this approach will fail and DHS will not develop a successful border security plan, S. 744 establishes a commission to review security at the border five years after the plan has been implemented (if the Secretary decides such a commission is needed).”

However, the law enforcement community representatives note, that “powerless commission” only would have “the authority to make recommendations on how to achieve border security” and those “recommendations may very well be ignored by DHS.”

The law enforcement officers also wrote that the bill “does not address current failures of interior enforcement that will render any legislation ineffective, regardless of its provisions.”

“Currently, ICE officers cannot arrest or remove most illegal immigrants they come in contact with, even if officers believe those individuals present a risk to public safety,” they wrote. “To avoid offending special interests, ICE officers are also prohibited from making street arrests, and are also prohibited from arresting illegal immigrants who are public charges or who violate laws involving fraudulent documents. 

"ICE officers are under orders to wait until immigration violators commit and are convicted of criminal offenses and placed in jail by state authorities before they can act in their capacity as Federal immigration officers and make an arrest. Even though illegal entry and visa overstay violations account for the majority of the 11 million illegal immigrants currently residing in the United States, DHS and ICE have directed ICE officers not to enforce the laws related to these offenses.”

The sheriffs and law enforcement representatives also point out that the bill weakens current law when it comes to entry-exit visa security for immigrants. They wrote that the bill “establishes a biographic (instead of biometric) exit system that has already proven easy to circumvent and not worthy of investment” and “limits the exit system to air and sea ports and does not expand the program to include monitoring of the nation’s land borders.”

“This will not provide adequate coverage and security to the nation’s ports of entry and will result in identifying only a fraction of the visa violators unlawfully present in the United States,” they wrote.

The law enforcement figures added that the bill opens up Registered Provisional Immigrant (RPI) legalization status to illegal immigrants “with long criminal records, gang affiliations, felony arrests, and those with multiple misdemeanor criminal convictions” and “allows criminal aliens to continue to commit and be convicted of criminal offenses after receiving provisional legal status, as long as the individual’s convictions remain below the eligibility threshold.”

The letter signers believe the reason the bill makes all of these national security and law enforcement problems worse is because the Gang of Eight—Republican Sens. Marco Rubio (R-FL), John McCain (R-AZ), Jeff Flake (R-AZ) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Democratic Sens. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Bob Menendez (D-NJ) and Michael Bennet (D-CO)—excluded law enforcement from helping draft the bill but brought in special interest groups like labor unions and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and extremist pro-amnesty groups.

“While business groups, activists, and other special interests were closely involved in the drafting of S. 744, law enforcement personnel were excluded from those meetings,” they wrote. “Immigration officers and state and local law enforcement working directly within the nation’s broken immigration system were prohibited from providing input. As a result, the legislation before us may have many satisfactory components for powerful lobbying groups and other special interests, but on the subjects of public safety, border security, and interior enforcement, this legislation fails. It is a dramatic step in the wrong direction.”

Sheriffs who signed the letter are from counties in states including New Mexico, Colorado, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Massachusetts, Maryland, Indiana and Pennsylvania.

Law Enforcement Letter to Congress

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