Immigration was one of the most hotly debated issues during the last presidential election, so it’s no surprise that there continue to be significant developments on these policies. I wanted to provide an update and share some of the progress we’ve made in the House to change the course of our nation’s illegal immigration problem.
As you probably know, the Trump Administration recently announced that it would end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. President Barack Obama established DACA in 2012 to allow undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as children to avoid deportation and obtain renewable work authorization. Since then as many as 800,000 individuals have been accepted into DACA. Whether you agree or disagree with the intention of the program, DACA was a blatantly unconstitutional abuse of executive power. Attorney General Jeff Sessions is right to phase out this program and allow Congress time to craft the appropriate policy in an orderly and constitutional manner.
I believe our immigration policies should discourage illegal entry, not reward it. In addressing this problem, we must also recognize and sympathetic to the fact that these individuals were brought here as children and not of their own accord. This is just one of the many areas of immigration law that needs to be fixed, and I look forward to working with my Judiciary Committee colleagues to craft policies that restore the rule of law and promote America’s economic interests.
When it comes to cracking down on illegal immigration, I believe most of us agree that we should start by targeting the dangerous criminals who put Americans at risk. That’s why I was proud to recently vote in favor of H.R. 3697, the Criminal Alien Gang Member Removal Act. This bill will amend the law to finally make a person’s history of involvement in a criminal gang grounds for inadmissibility into this country. This bill would also allow law enforcement agents to automatically detain and deport anyone found to be a criminal alien gang member.
You might read this and wonder, “What gang violence?” The most notorious Latin American gang is known as MS-13. It began in the 1980s and has grown to an estimated 8,000 members in the United States. They have a violent history of organized crime in the areas of drug trafficking, kidnapping, human smuggling, sex trafficking, murder, assassinations, blackmail, and extortion. To paint a clear picture of just how violent MS-13 is, their motto is “Mata, Roba, Viola, Controla,” which translates to “Kill, Steal, Rape, Control.”
If that isn’t enough to demonstrate the serious threat these individuals pose, MS-13 has been responsible for eight brutal murders in Northern Virginia alone just since last November. Our bill makes it crystal clear that criminal alien gang members are not welcome in this country, and if they should find themselves here, we are dedicated to getting them off the street.
Also on the immigration front, the House took action to put a “down payment” on construction of a border wall. Our government-wide appropriations bill, the Make America Prosperous and Secure Appropriations Act, contains $1.6 billion for construction and security upgrades at the southern border. It is Congress’ responsibility to budget for national priorities, and securing the border is a top priority. We need bigger, stronger, and smarter barriers along our southern border, and that’s why our bill funds this down payment to begin construction.
Immigration is a sensitive issue that many people on both sides of the argument have strong feelings about. There are no easy fixes, but I believe most Americans are ready for a sensible immigration system that promotes public safety, fairness, and economic growth. As a member of the Judiciary Committee, I will remain actively involved in this issue and I am optimistic we can continue to make real progress.
Martha Roby represents Alabama’s Second Congressional District. She lives in Montgomery, Alabama with her husband Riley and their two children.