House committee set to mark up aggressive immigration bills

A House committee on Thursday will consider a set of immigration bills that opponents of President Donald Trump’s agenda say would amount to the execution of a mass deportation force.

The House judiciary committee is set to mark up three Republican bills related to immigration — one that would vastly expand the role of state and local jurisdictions in immigration enforcement and two others that would authorize immigration components of the Department of Homeland Security.

The biggest bill, the Michael Davis Jr. and Danny Oliver in Honor of State and Local Law Enforcement Act, was introduced by Republican Rep. Raul Labrador of Idaho and tracks similar legislation the House judiciary committee has advanced in the past.

The Davis-Oliver Act would substantially increase the capabilities of federal and local immigration enforcement, including empowering state and local law enforcement to enact their own immigration laws and penalties. It also would give the government powers to revoke visas, beef up Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s ability to arrest and deport undocumented immigrants, increase criminal penalties for undocumented immigrants and punish sanctuary jurisdictions.

The other two bills, introduced by Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte of Virginia, would serve as authorizations for ICE and US Citizenship and Immigration Services, codifying the mission statements of both entities. The USCIS bill would focus the agency, which oversees the issuance of visas and grants immigrants the ability to enter the US, on preventing fraud and security threats and on protecting American jobs as it welcomes immigrants.

The ICE bill would increase the number of deportation officers and ensure that each one is granted, among other armament, an M-4 rifle. Both bills would likely be packaged with a broader Homeland Security authorization being worked on by the House homeland security committee, which has jurisdiction over most of the rest of the department.

It’s unclear if any of the bills will make it to the full House floor. It is a virtual certainty that Democrats will unanimously oppose the bills, and a substantial number of moderate Republicans could balk at such an aggressive approach to immigration enforcement.

Even if the bills were to pass the House, they would need at least eight Democratic votes in the Senate to pass there, assuming all Republicans support the bills.

Pro-immigration groups were quick to decry the legislation in advance releases Wednesday.

“If enacted, the bills would raise a host of constitutional concerns, undermining public safety and harming immigrants and U.S. citizens alike,” said Ronald Newman, policy counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union. “They would also lead to significant, unnecessary federal spending and erode US values and norms. They would provide rocket fuel for President Trump’s mass deportation agenda.”

Lynn Tramonte, deputy director of America’s Voice Education Fund, said lawmakers should oppose the bills.

“House Republicans are advancing legislation that would mean more chaos, more families separated, and no benefit to public safety,” Tramonte said. “Democrats, and Republicans who purport to want to live up to American values and reform immigration system, should not give one more ounce of authority or one more dollar to this administration.”

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