WASHINGTON – Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley today introduced and cosponsored a package of bills aimed at protecting Americans by improving the nation’s immigration laws. Grassley introduced two bills to deny entry or allow removal of immigrants who are affiliated with criminal gangs and to require immigration officials to take custody of and deport undocumented immigrants arrested for drunk driving.  Grassley also cosponsored legislation to increase penalties for immigrants who repeatedly illegally enter the United States, target criminal immigrants charged in violent crimes and allow detention of dangerous immigrants when their home countries refuse to cooperate with deportation efforts.
“Time and again, we’ve seen criminal immigrants wreak havoc in communities from California to Iowa to North Carolina, disregarding the rule of law and victimizing innocent people.  Their crimes destroy families, degrade communities and give other law-abiding and hardworking immigrants a bad name.  Unfortunately, the government often falls short of doing all it can to ensure that these criminals cannot put others in harm’s way.  This package of bills takes steps to honor past victims and prevent future victims by giving government the tools and directives necessary to enforce laws and protect the public,” Grassley said.
As chairman, Grassley has convened Senate Judiciary Committee hearings to hear from loved ones of victims lost to violent crimes committed by immigrants illegally in the country. The hearings highlighted existing immigration enforcement challenges and failures.  Below is a list of five bills introduced today to address those failures and improve public safety.
Taking Action Against Drunk Drivers Act – S. 51
The Obama administration’s Priority Enforcement Program for people illegally in the country does not require federal immigration officials to detain immigrants who are arrested for drunk driving even if it results in injury or death.  Grassley reintroduced legislation today requiring federal immigration authorities to take action against undocumented immigrants arrested for driving under the influence.  Specifically the bill:
  • Prohibits the release from federal custody of undocumented immigrants held for DUI or DWI offenses;
  • Makes immigrants with three DUI/DWI convictions inadmissible to and removable from the country; and
  • Makes three DUI/DWI convictions an aggravated felony under the Immigration and Naturalization Act, allowing for expedited removal, precluding eligibility for certain benefits and permanently barring legal admission into the country.
Grassley first introduced the bill last year following several tragedies involving immigrants who were arrested for drunk driving, including one incident that claimed the life of 21-year-old Iowan Sarah Root.  More recently, an immigrant with prior drunk driving arrests struck and killed a Kansas deputy sheriff, prompting an inquiry from Grassley and senators Jerry Moran and Pat Roberts.
Cosponsors of this bill include senators Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), Mike Lee (R-Utah), Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Rodger Wicker (R-Miss.), Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) and Orrin Hatch (R-Utah).
Bill making immigrants with criminal gang ties inadmissible and deportable – S. 52
While President Obama stated that his immigration enforcement would focus on felons, criminals and gang members, immigrants with known ties to criminal gangs have not only been able to avoid removal, some have even received deferred deportation protections.  Grassley reintroduced legislation today clarifying that members of criminal gangs are not eligible for deferred deportation and should be placed in an expedited removal process. Specifically, the bill:
  • Makes current and former members of a criminal gang inadmissible and deportable;
  • Defines gang in the same way under current criminal code, and further would allow the Secretary of Homeland Security, in consultation with the Attorney General or the Secretary of State, to designate criminal gangs;
  • Requires mandatory detention of persons apprehended by the Department of Homeland Security who are members of a criminal gang;
  • Makes criminal gang members ineligible for benefits, such as deferred action, asylum, Temporary Protected Status, and Special Immigration Juvenile Visas; and
  • Expedites removal procedures for dangerous criminals, terrorists and gang members.
Grassley first introduced this bill last year, after U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services acknowledged that it granted deferred deportation to a known gang member who is now charged with four counts of 1st degree murder. Cosponsors of this bill include Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), Ted Cruz (R-Texas), John Boozman (R-Ark.).
Sarah’s Law – S. 37
Sarah Root of Iowa was only 21 when she was struck and killed by a drunk driver who was in the country illegally. Because the Obama administration didn’t consider her killer an enforcement priority, he was able to post bail and remains at large nearly a year later.  Sarah’s Law requires federal immigration officials to take custody of individuals illegally in the country who are later charged with a crime that results in death or serious bodily injury.  The bill also requires the government to provide relevant information to the victims and family members.
Grassley is a lead cosponsor of Sarah’s law, which was first introduced last year by Senator Joni Ernst of Iowa.  Other cosponsors include Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), Ben Sasse (R-Neb.), Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), John Thune (R-S.D.), Ted Cruz (R-Texas) Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), Tom Cotton  (R-Ark.), Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) and Bill Cassidy (R-La.).
Kate’s Law – S. 45
Kate Steinle was shot and killed while walking along a San Francisco pier with her family by an immigrant who had been previously deported five times and had again illegally returned to the United States. Unfortunately, she and many others have fallen victim to criminals who had previously been removed from the country for earlier crimes. More recently, a man charged with raping a 13-year-old on a bus traveling through Kansas had already been removed 19 times, according to media reports.  Current law does not require prison time for individuals who re-enter the United States following a deportation.  Kate’s law establishes a mandatory minimum 5-year prison sentence for individuals who enter the United States after having been deported.
Kate’s law was reintroduced today by Senator Ted Cruz of Texas.  Grassley is a lead cosponsor of this bill. Other cosponsors include David Perdue (R-Ga.), Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), and Ben Sasse (R-Neb.), Rodger Wicker (R-Miss.), John Boozman (R-Ark.) and Tom Cotton (R-Ark.).
Keep Our Communities Safe – S. 36
A 2001 Supreme Court decision, Zadvydas v. Davis, requires federal immigration officials to release deportable immigrants if they’ve been detained for six months without being removed.  Some countries refuse or are slow to cooperate with U.S. deportation efforts, forcing immigration officials to release their citizens before they can be deported.  As a result more than 36,000 immigrants convicted of crimes were released back into American communities in 2013 alone, a practice commonly referred to as “catch and release.”  Legislation reintroduced today by Senator Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma closes this immigration loophole by allowing immigration officials to hold deportable criminals beyond six months in certain situations to improve public safety. Specifically, deportable immigrants can be held beyond six months when:
  • The immigrant will be removed in the reasonably foreseeable future;
  • The immigrant refuses to make all reasonable efforts to comply and cooperate with the Secretary’s efforts to remove him or her;
  • The immigrant has a highly contagious disease;
  • Release would have serious adverse foreign policy consequences;
  • Release would threaten national security; or
  • Release would threaten the safety of the community and the alien either is an aggravated felon or has committed a crime of violence.
Grassley is a lead cosponsor of this legislation. Other cosponsors include Ted Cruz (R-Texas), John Boozman (R-Ark.) and Tom Cotton (R-Ark.).