Radical Bill Would Decriminalize Illegal Immigration

Townhall op-ed by Rep. Budd


Just last week, more than three dozen House Democrats unveiled a truly radical immigration proposal that would decriminalize illegal immigration, allow individuals that committed serious felonies to move to the United States, and would weaken the laws we already have on the books that enable federal immigration officers to detain immigrants with significant criminal convictions. The bill is called the New Way Forward Act, and it contains a laundry list of open-border policies that would undermine our immigration system and remake the U.S. into a nation with virtually no way of controlling who comes into our country.

The most fundamental misconception that this bill embraces is the notion that the situation at our Southern border is somehow acceptable. Last year, I had the opportunity to spend time touring the Arizona-Mexico border with several lawmakers. We traveled to multiple border towns and met with Border Patrol agents, ranchers, and law enforcement officers. After seeing the crisis firsthand and speaking with experts who deal with immigration issues every day, I was more convinced that we should be empowering these agents by allocating additional resources and building physical barriers to stop the flow of illegal immigrants and illegal drugs into our country.

Unfortunately, this New Way Forward Act does the opposite. This bill would make it exceptionally difficult to deport convicted criminal illegal immigrants. Under current law, the minimum sentence that requires a deportation is one year. The New Way Forward Act would raise it to five years. That would allow an alien who committed crimes like auto theft, weapons crimes, identity theft, and fraud to remain in the country.

This legislation forces the Department of Homeland Security to pay for the return of previously deported criminal illegal immigrants using taxpayer dollars. Under the bill, any illegal immigrant deported since April 1996 could be allowed to return to America. It is ridiculous to require American taxpayers to foot the bill to bring previously deported individuals back onto U.S. soil.

This bill would make it more difficult for ICE to detain an immigrant with a criminal record. Agents would be forced to prove that a suspect poses a danger or a flight risk without using the immigrant’s past criminal history as the sole factor. Rep. Jesus Garcia (D-IL), the sponsor of this bill even proclaimed that it would, “end deportation for people who had contact with the criminal legal system.” I would say it’s common sense that a serious criminal conviction should lead to deportation, as long as our country has the assurance that the criminal alien will face justice in their home country and won’t be able to re-enter the United States without penalty.

Like many Americans, I want people to enter our country through the legal process and then stay on the right side of the law. Legal immigration is what makes our country great. But we cannot pass bills like this one, that incentivize more people to come here illegally or impose no penalty on those who commit serious crimes. This bill would be unfair to the millions of individuals that have applied and waited to become a citizen through the legal process we have in place.

I think most Americans would agree that we should welcome those who come to our land in a legal, merit-based way, and that dangerous illegal immigrants should not be allowed to come into our country or stay in our country. Unfortunately, this bill makes a mockery of that principle, and replaces it with a set of radical open-borders policies that are dangerous to our citizens and our communities.

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