House Democrats said during a markup hearing Thursday that Republican legislation addressing illegal immigration fulfills President Trump’s campaign pledge.
The Davis-Oliver Act would hire over ten thousand additional ICE officers, allow state and local agencies to enforce immigration law, cut certain grants for sanctuary cities, and make it easier to deport illegal immigrants.
The Daily Caller previously reported how the act was highlighted on White House chief strategist Steve Bannon’s office whiteboard, and that the Trump administration is in communication with House Judiciary Committee chairman Bob Goodlatte about passing the legislation.
“It is very honest to say this is a campaign pledge. It is the one of Mr. Trump for a deportation task force,” Democratic Texas Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee said.
Democratic Georgia Rep. Hank Johnson called it a “Steve Bannon-Donald Trump deportation bill.”
The Democrats described the bill as draconian during the hearing, and one Democrat, Washington Rep. Pramila Jayapal, went as far as to compare current immigration law to slavery.
“We all want to make sure that we continue to be a nation of laws. But I also want to say in the words of Martin Luther King from the Birmingham jail, ‘An unjust law is no law at all,'” Jayapal said. “Slavery was also the law of the land, but they were many people who sought to change what were at that time extremely unjust laws. And that in my opinion is the case in terms of immigration law.”
House Republicans stressed that the bill would allow for effective enforcement of immigration law. “Real immigration reform needs to have a mechanism to prevent any president, acting alone, from simply turning off the switch on enforcement,” Rep. Goodlatte said a statement. “This bill ensures that when the federal government fails to act, states can, if they so choose, pick up the slack.”
The legislation was introduced by Idaho Republican Rep. Raul Labrador and is a version of a bill that was previously put forward by South Carolina Rep. Trey Gowdy. It is named after two California police officers who were killed by an illegal immigrant.
When it was introduced in 2015, it was endorsed by both the National Sheriffs’ Association and the National Association of Former Border Patrol Officers.
The legislation takes many other steps beyond allowing state and local agencies to enforce immigration laws. Being in the country illegally is currently a civil offense, but this bill would make it a criminal offense and it would increase the penalties for immigration-related crimes such as passport fraud.
The legislation calls for the deportation of any immigrant, legal or illegal, who is a member of a criminal street gang and would authorize the State Department to impose sanctions on nations that refuse to cooperate with deportation proceedings.
ICE recently identified 12 countries that routinely refuse or delay the acceptance of deportees.