Enforcement Holiday: Immigration Bill Allows Criminal Illegals 'Safe Harbor'

A provision in the “Gang of Eight” bill would amount to a 2.5-year-long law enforcement holiday, during which time law enforcement will be forced to suspend deportation efforts against criminal illegal aliens and allow them to apply for legalization. 

What that means is that while illegal immigrants "come out of the shadows," as Gang of Eight members like to say, and fill out their applications for legalization or amnesty, enforcement of America's interior immigration laws will be suspended completely. Essentially, the bill's provisions create a few-year-long period of suspeneded immigration enforcement immigration while illegal aliens apply for legalization.

The provision, which applies to all illegal aliens who would seek legalized Registered Provisional Immigrant (RPI) status and to all “blue card” status applicants for illegal immigrant farm workers, has been in the bill since its introduction. As the Gang of Eight and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid attempt to speed this bill across the finish line in the U.S. Senate on Thursday, some who are worried about the bill's potential future impact are trying to highlight these specific provisions more.

For instance, NumbersUSA director of government relations Rosemary Jenks wrote in a recent op-ed for Breitbart News that the senate bill would make "the United States essentially an enforcement-free zone for a minimum of 18 months (six months for the Secretary of Homeland Security to write two plans to secure the Southern border, then a one-year amnesty application period), but more likely three years (since the Secretary can extend the amnesty application period for another 18 months)."

"During this entire period, no illegal alien can be deported without being given an opportunity to apply for amnesty," Jenks wrote.

Jenks wrote that President Barack Obama’s current “executive amnesty for so-called DREAMers is instructive on how this will play out” as under that policy if ICE agents encounter illegal aliens, “and such encounters generally occur because the alien is in jail for another crime--and the alien says he is eligible for the amnesty, ICE must take him at his word and release him with instructions on how to apply for amnesty.”

“ The only exception is if the alien already has been convicted of a felony or three or more ‘serious’ misdemeanors--the same standard set out in the Gang amnesty bill,” Jenks wrote.

The specific text of the bill, found on page 139 of its newest version that will be headed to passage on Thursday, reads as follows:

“‘(5) ALIENS APPREHENDED BEFORE OR DURING THE APPLICATION PERIOD.—If an alien who is apprehended during the period beginning on the date of the enactment of the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act and the end of the application period described in paragraph (3) appears prima facie eligible for registered provisional immigrant status, to the satisfaction of the Secretary, the Secretary—

‘(A) shall provide the alien with a reasonable opportunity to file an application under this section during such application period; and

‘‘(B) may not remove the individual until a final administrative determination is made on the application.”

In addition, a section later in the bill, on pages 146 through 149, protects any illegal aliens “apprehended,” regardless of whether or not they are suspected criminals, from actually being detained while matters in their circumstance would be investigated. The text of that section reads:

‘‘(7) SUSPENSION OF REMOVAL DURING APPLICATION PERIOD.—

‘‘(A) PROTECTION FROM DETENTION OR REMOVAL.—A registered provisional immigrant may not be detained by the Secretary or re13

moved from the United States, unless—

‘‘(i) the Secretary determines that—

‘‘(I) such alien is, or has become,  ineligible for registered provisional immigrant status under subsection (b)(3); or

‘‘(II) the alien’s registered provisional immigrant status has been revoked under subsection (d)(2).

‘‘(B) ALIENS IN REMOVAL PROCEEDINGS.—Notwithstanding any other provision of this Act—

‘‘(i) if the Secretary determines that an alien, during the period beginning on  the date of the enactment of this section  and ending on the last day of the application period described in paragraph (3), is in removal, deportation, or exclusion proceedings before the Executive Office for

Immigration Review and is prima facie eligible for registered provisional immigrant status under this section—

‘‘(I) the Secretary shall provide the alien with the opportunity to file an application for such status; and

‘‘(II) upon motion by the Secretary and with the consent of the alien or upon motion by the alien, the Executive Office for Immigration Review shall—

‘‘(aa) terminate such proceedings without prejudice to future proceedings on any basis; and ‘‘(bb) provide the alien a reasonable opportunity to apply for such status; and

‘‘(ii) if the Executive Office for Immigration Review determines that an alien, during the period beginning on the date of the enactment of this section and ending on the last day of the application period described in paragraph (3), is in removal, deportation, or exclusion proceedings before the Executive Office for Immigration  Review and is prima facie eligible for registered provisional immigrant status under this section—

‘‘(I) the Executive Office of Immigration Review shall notify the Secretary of such determination; and

‘‘(II) if the Secretary does not dispute the determination of prima facie eligibility within 7 days after such notification, the Executive Office for Immigration Review, upon consent of the alien, shall—

‘‘(aa) terminate such proceedings without prejudice to future proceedings on any basis; and

‘‘(bb) permit the alien a reasonable opportunity to apply for such status.

‘‘(C) TREATMENT OF CERTAIN ALIENS.—

‘‘(i) IN GENERAL.—If an alien who meets the eligibility requirements set forth  in subsection (b) is present in the United  States and has been ordered excluded, deported, or removed, or ordered to depart  voluntarily from the United States under  any provision of this Act—

‘‘(I) notwithstanding such order or section 241(a)(5), the alien may apply for registered provisional immigrant status under this section; and

‘‘(II) if the alien is granted such  status, the alien shall file a motion to reopen the exclusion, deportation, removal, or voluntary departure order,  which motion shall be granted unless 1 or more of the grounds of ineligibility is established by clear and convincing evidence.

Identical language for “blue card” illegal alien farm workers exists on pages 235 through 238 in the bill.

What this provision would do is allow people like the illegal alien gang member who killed Jamiel Shaw, Jr., in Los Angeles a few years ago to stay in the country and be given the benefit of the doubt by law enforcement. The young man’s father recounted during a recent House Judiciary Committee hearing the heart wrenching story of how the illegal alien gang member killed his son a few years ago after he had already by identified by immigration authorities. 

ICE officers frequently say they want to remove people before they would commit any crimes; a major pillar of law enforcement is crime prevention. So, in this case, if a gang member was apprehended by police and was here illegally he would be immune from deportation even if he wasn’t ultimately eligible for amnesty, as long as he filed an application or "appeared" to be eligible for amnesty. 

The same goes for cases involving people like Manuel Gutierrez Vazquez, an illegal alien who allegedly killed a man and injured his two sons in an alleged drunken driving incident in New Jersey. If ICE agents could have had him on their radar, and had the resources necessary to enforce immigration laws, incidents like what happened to that New Jersey family could have prevented.

If someone enters the United States illegally just six weeks and gets caught drunk driving they could simply say they came here 18 months ago--the stated cutoff time for legalization in the bill--and if they file an application after saying that, ICE officers will be ordered to release them.

Somebody like Gustavo Rodriguez Costilla, a 24-year-old who escaped from a Mexican prison with about 130 other inmates last fall, could avoid immigration law enforcement officials in much the same manner. Costilla was in prison in Mexico because of possession of certain firearms and grenades in Mexico, and broke out as part of a Zeta drug cartel-orchestrated prison break.

According to the San Antonio Express News, authorities in the United States just recaptured Costilla this week after he had illegally entered the United States. But if the Gang of Eight bill were law, and the enforcement holiday was still ongoing, and somebody like Costilla told federal immigration agents an untrue story about how they arrived here, those federal officials would need to offer that person the benefit of the doubt and not detain him or enforce immigration law against him. 

A letter that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) National Council president Chris Crane sent to Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) on Wednesday noted that ICE expects there to be about 2 million criminal illegal aliens in the country right now, and 500,000 of them are wanted fugitives on the run from ICE. Crane said in that letter that the bill would make these problems worse.

Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) told Breitbart News that this language in the bill essentially provides a “safe harbor” for illegal immigrants with criminal backgrounds for two and a half years. “The immigration enforcement provisions in this bill were designed by special interests groups who do not want and will not accept meaningful interior enforcement,” Sessions said in a statement provided to Breitbart News. “Many senators may not be aware of provisions strewn throughout this 1,200 page bill that undermine law officers and jeopardize public safety.  As both ICE and USCIS officers have warned us, this legislation will hamstring enforcement and provide immediate safe harbor to dangerous individuals.”

Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) echoed Sessions’ comments in a statement provided to Breitbart News. "The Gang of 8 bill is flawed for many reasons, but its supporters are thumbing their noses at real enforcement,” Vitter said. “An ‘enforcement holiday’ for one is about as ridiculous as it gets.”

Crane, the head of the ICE agents’ union, concurred with Sens. Sessions and Vitter. “If dramatic changes are not made to this legislation, this bill will mark the end of any type of significant immigration enforcement in the interior of the United States,” Crane told Breitbart News in response to the exposure of the enforcement holiday in the bill.

Despite a lack of much public scrutiny of these provisions in the bill, the Senate under Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s leadership, is rushing this bill to passage on Thursday. A GOP senate aide told Breitbart News, however, this is one reason why there should have been an open and transparent legislative process with more than just one single hearing. The amendment process only saw, as many Senators have pointed out, just nine amendments voted on out of hundreds that were offered. Many of these amendments that were introduced, but Reid blocked from seeing a vote attempted, to address issues like the ones laid out here.

"This loophole that would create a public safety risk is yet another fatal flaw in this unwieldy, kickback-riddled, disastrous legislation being rushed through the Senate before this weekend,” the GOP aide said. “It’s sickening that senators know about this flaw, yet Harry Reid is not allowing fixes that would improve public safety and likely prevent the tragic loss of lives.”


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