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For Immediate Release
June 18, 2013

Grassley Amendments Focus on Strengthening Criminal Laws that are Weakened in Immigration Bill

            WASHINGTON – Senator Chuck Grassley, Ranking Member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, introduced three amendments that would tighten criminal laws that are being weakened in the comprehensive immigration bill being debated by the Senate. 


            “Despite assurances from supporters to the contrary, the current immigration bill substantially weakens border security by watering down existing criminal law like identity theft, passport fraud, and gang membership.  My amendments are simple and necessary to ensure that strong disincentives are in place to deter people from breaking the laws on the books,” Grassley said.


Grassley’s first amendment would amend the criminal identity theft law to include those who illegally steal identities in order to gain employment. The amendment is needed to address a 2009 Supreme Court case, Flores-Figueroa, which held that someone who submits a false identification document can’t be convicted of aggravated identity theft unless the government can prove that the individual knew that the identity document belonged to another person.  In other words, the government must prove that the thief knew he or she is stealing a real person’s identity, not just creating what he or she believes is a fake document.


The Court held that an undocumented immigrant using what he thought was a fake Social Security number and a fake alien registration card could not be convicted of aggravated identity theft because the government could not prove he knew the number and fake alien registration card belonged to real people.


The second amendment improves sections of the bill relating to illegal entry, reentry of removed aliens, and passport fraud.  The underlying bill includes a number of changes to existing criminal law that waters down these serious crimes and encourages foreign nationals to unlawfully enter or reenter the United States, or commit passport fraud.  The Grassley amendment would reinstate current law for these provisions ensuring we do not create a situation where we support illegal entry and document fraud.


The third Grassley amendment would address language in the bill that creates a convoluted and ineffective process for determining whether a foreign national in a street gang should be deemed inadmissible or be deported.  The amendment would strike the provision in the bill that allows criminal gang members admittance to the country and replaces it with a provision that would deny entry or remove a gang member, if the Department of Homeland Security proves a foreign national has a prior federal felony conviction for drug trafficking or a violent crime; has knowledge that the gang is continuing to commit crimes; and has acted in furtherance of gang activity.