House Passes Harsh, Enforcement-Only Bill That Would Criminalize 11 Million Immigrants

H.R. 4437 passed by a vote of 239-182.

As we noted in earlier reports, H.R. 4437 would criminalize unlawful presence; strip the courts of much of their remaining jurisdiction over immigration matters; gut the due process rights of aliens, permanent residents and United States citizens; expand expedited removal; broaden the definition of alien smuggling to include churches, employers, family members, and immigrant advocates; expand the definition of aggravated felony; create new grounds of deportability and inadmissibility; increase mandatory detention; militarize the border; and place limitations on eligibility for naturalization.

In addition, lawmakers approved a number of amendments during floor consideration of the measure, making the end product even more egregious than the initial base bill. Among these include:

  • an amendment to eliminate the diversity visa lottery
  • a manager's amendment that, among other things, eliminates judicial review of arbitrary denials of motions to reopen and makes misuse of passports or travel documents an aggravated felony even if committed by a refugee or a victim of domestic violence or trafficking
  • an amendment giving state and local law enforcement officials the "inherent authority" to enforce civil immigration laws (the CLEAR Act revisited)
  • an amendment withholding grant funds from state and local governments that maintain a policy of protecting the confidentiality of immigrants
  • an amendment approving construction of more border fencing
  • an amendment rendering a single DUI conviction a deportable offense
  • an amendment vesting USCIS with law enforcement powers over certain investigations, and allowing the Office of Security and Investigations to engage in data-mining of DHS databases
  • an amendment further increasing penalties for document fraud, crimes of violence and drug trafficking offenses
  • H.R. 4437 is a disappointing, disastrous measure for both immigrants and U.S. citizens alike, and AILA will be working closely with the Senate, once Congress reconvenes in January, to craft a reasoned and sensible approach to fixing our broken immigration system—an approach that offers an opportunity for success. H.R. 4437 offers no such opportunity.

    In the meantime, use Contact Congress to send a letter to your Representative, either thanking him or her for voting against H.R. 4437, or expressing your disappointment for his or her vote in support of the measure. The vote tallies will be posted to Contact Congress soon.

    Cite as AILA Doc. No. 05121611.