Congress Passed a Bill to Deport Suspected ‘Gang’ Members — There’s Just One Problem, by Sarah Cronin

The effects of a law often hinge on its definitions. From Sarah Cronin at theantimedia.org:

Last week the House passed a bill to expand the government’s ability to deport immigrants on the basis of alleged gang affiliation. Promoted by Republicans as a way to target members of gangs such as the transnational M13 gang, H.R. 3697, the “Criminal Alien Gang Member Removal Act,” amends the Immigration and Nationality Act by adding gang affiliation to the list of criminal offenses that qualify as grounds for detention and deportation.

The bill passed 233 – 175 with almost unanimous Republican support and now must gain approval in the Senate, where it is currently pending in the Committee on the Judiciary. While the bill still has yet to come to a vote in Senate, it has already gained the presidential nod of approval. Shortly following the bill’s passage, the White House Press Secretary published a statement applauding Congress’ decision, and the administration already affirmed that “If H.R. 3697 were presented to the president in its current form, his advisors would recommend that he sign the bill into law,” according to a  statement of administrative policy published last Tuesday.

The bill has received strong criticism from House Democrats and organizations such as the National Immigrant Justice Center (NIJC) and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), who claim the bill provides the government with sweeping discretion to detain and deport immigrants using a broad and arbitrary label.

The bulk of the debate on the bill revolves around how it defines ‘gangs.’ The bill defines a gang as any group of five or more people that has as one of its primary purposes the commission of one or more specified criminal offenses. The bill goes on to expand on these ‘criminal offenses’ to include felony drug offenses, which would include the possession of marijuana. It also explicitly names the ‘harboring’ of undocumented immigrants as a crime.

This means, theoretically, that any organization that helps, shelters, or hires undocumented immigrants could be considered a gang, and thus any immigrant member of such group could theoretically be detained or deported as a gang member.

To continue reading: Congress Passed a Bill to Deport Suspected ‘Gang’ Members — There’s Just One Problem

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