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House Passes Department of Justice Appropriations Authorization with Two Immigration-Related Amendments

Cite as "AILA InfoNet Doc. No. 05092961 (posted Sep. 29, 2005)"

The House of Representatives, on September 28, passed by a vote of 415-4 the Department of Justice Appropriations Authorization Act, Fiscal Years 2006 through 2009 (H.R. 3402), which includes the House version of the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2005. Lawmakers approved two immigration-related amendments during floor consideration of the bill.

The first of these, an amendment offered by Representative Steve King (R-IA), would prohibit any person convicted of domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking, trafficking, elder abuse, or dating violence from sponsoring a visa applicant in the future. This amendment misses the mark by punishing the innocent relatives of people convicted of such crimes. Additionally, the amendment is too far-reaching. To ban a person convicted of a domestic violence crime from ever sponsoring a family member for legal status is excessive. Furthermore, this proposal could be harmful to battered immigrants, as they can be arrested at domestic violence scenes for various reasons, and if convicted of an enumerated crime, they would be barred from sponsoring relatives to immigrate. Though perhaps well-intentioned, the King amendment would ultimately deny many U.S. citizens, lawful permanent residents, and others the right to family unity. The amendment was agreed to on a voice vote.

The second amendment, offered by Representatives Jim Kolbe (R-AZ), David Dreier (R-CA), and Jerry Lewis (R-CA), would reauthorize the State Criminal Alien Assistance Program (SCAAP) through fiscal year (FY) 2011, and would progressively increase authorized funding to $950 million for FYs 2008-11. The amendment also would require the Department of Justice Inspector General to submit a report on the state and local governments receiving SCAAP funding and whether they are cooperating with efforts to deport criminal aliens; whether they have policies in violation of current law; and, in the case of undocumented aliens released without referral to the Department of Homeland Security, the number of subsequent offenses committed. The report requirement is problematic because it appears to challenge state and local confidentiality policies in place around the country. To collect the required data, state and local police would have to violate these confidentiality policies by contacting DHS about any individuals who might be undocumented immigrants. Such a requirement would create a dangerous situation in which undocumented immigrants who are victims of crimes would be even less willing to approach the police. Ironically, there has been no showing that these carefully crafted policies even run afoul of the IIRAIRA’s prohibition on inhibiting sharing of immigration status data—yet another example of an enforcement solution in search of a problem. The amendment was agreed to on a voice vote.

In addition to the amendments noted above, the House Rules Committee blocked an amendment offered by Representative Jeff Flake (R-AZ), ruling it to be “not in order.” Representative Flake’s amendment would have authorized any federal government agency to collect the DNA of federal arrestees as well as those being detained in order for these DNA profiles to be included in the federal (CODIS) DNA database. This proposal would have serious implications for people who are detained on possible immigration violations, forcing them to submit their DNA to federal officials. While not part of the House bill, a similar amendment could still be included in the Senate version of VAWA reauthorization legislation.

 
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