When President Obama announced his executive order to defer the deportation of thousands of undocumented immigrants, he stressed that violent criminals would not get a free pass. He said removals would focus on “Felons, not families. Criminals, not children. Gang members, not a mom who’s working hard to provide for her kids.”
Unfortunately, recent tragedies have highlighted failures by this administration to prevent criminals and members of criminal gangs from receiving deferred action under the President’s controversial order. Earlier this year, a known gang member who was living illegally in the United States was allowed to remain in the country after being granted deferred action under the President’s “DACA” program. After being allowed to stay, the man was charged with four counts of first degree murder in North Carolina. The man was in the process of being removed from the country several years earlier, but those efforts were halted when he was granted this deferred status, even though U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services knew of his involvement in a criminal gang. This isn’t the only time immigration officials have failed to prevent criminals from receiving this special status. Criminals and criminal gang members have been shielded from removal at least 282 times since the program began. This is unacceptable, and it raises serious public safety and national security concerns.
To help prevent future lapses by federal immigration officials, last week I introduced legislation prohibiting people with gang ties from receiving deferred deportation and other immigration benefits. The legislation also explicitly prevents admission for people with criminal gang affiliations and requires them to be detained and expeditiously removed from the country.
It’s unfortunate that an act of Congress is required to explicitly prevent the federal government from providing safe haven to criminal gang members, but it’s clear that the current policies and practices are not working. This legislation is designed to improve public safety by blocking gang members from receiving immigration benefits and relief from removal.