GOP lawmakers press DOJ about court decision allowing gang members to stay in US
In the wake of an appeals court ruling allowing an illegal immigrant gang member to remain in the country because he renounced his membership, a couple of GOP lawmakers are calling on the Justice Department to appeal.
On Jan. 23 in the matter of Martinez v. Holder, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Julio Martinez, an illegal immigrant MS-13 member from El Salvador, could remain in the U.S. because he renounced his membership and that gang members in El Salvador would kill him if he returns.
In a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte and Virginia Republican Rep. Randy Forbes pressed DOJ on next steps, given the grave precedent the ruling set.
“We are concerned that based on this decision, gang members will be able to receive asylum or withholding in the U.S., simply by telling immigration authorities that they have renounced their membership in the gang,” the letter sent Friday read. “In the Martinez case, an MS-13 gang member did just that. Surely it is likely that when gang members are placed in removal proceedings, they will claim that they are no longer a member of a gang and have renounced gang membership in an attempt to circumvent removal. Even aliens who have in fact left gangs were members of criminal organizations and do not deserve the protections of asylum or withholding.”
According to Goodlatte and Forbes, this case could create a loophole for gang members to game the system and stay in the U.S. by simply stating they had renounced their gang affiliation.
“Current and former gang members should not be shielded by our asylum or withholding system,” the pair wrote. “Indeed, the Committee has already marked up legislation, HR. 2278 — the SAFE Act, which clarifies that anyone who is or has been a member of a gang may not receive asylum or withholding on any grounds… While the Committee has done its part, we would like to know what DOJ plans to do to address this problem.”