House fast-tracks bill re­mov­ing il­le­gals who are gang-af­fil­i­ated

The Washington Times Daily - - POLITICS - BY STEPHEN DI­NAN

The House ap­proved a bill Thurs­day to speed up de­por­ta­tion of im­mi­grants deemed to be a part of gangs, call­ing the leg­is­la­tion a crit­i­cal step in try­ing to stem the rise of MS-13 and other vi­o­lent transna­tional crime or­ga­ni­za­tions whose deadly reach is in­creas­ing.

The leg­is­la­tion would give Home­land Se­cu­rity the power to iden­tify and of­fi­cially deem dan­ger­ous groups as gangs, and would let au­thor­i­ties de­tain im­mi­grants who be­long to those gangs un­til they can be de­ported.

But it proved deeply di­vi­sive, with the 233-175 vote fall­ing mainly along party lines.

Democrats who op­posed the bill said they feared it would scoop up peo­ple who weren’t gang mem­bers and deny im­mi­grants their rights.

Repub­li­can lead­ers, how­ever, said im­mi­grants would re­tain their rights to fight their de­por­ta­tion in courts, and said some­thing needs to be done to stop gangs.

“MS-13 has turned my district into killing fields,” said Rep. Peter T. King, New York Repub­li­can, re­fer­ring to Mara Sal­va­trucha, the Cen­tral Amer­i­can crim­i­nal or­ga­ni­za­tion that has be­come in­creas­ingly vi­o­lent in U.S. com­mu­ni­ties.

The White House said Pres­i­dent Trump sup­ports the bill.

“Pres­i­dent Trump has al­ways made the safety of Amer­i­cans his high­est pri­or­ity, and en­cour­ages the Se­nate to take quick ac­tion and pass this bill,” said press sec­re­tary Sarah Huck­abee San­ders.

But clear­ing the Se­nate could be dif­fi­cult.

Just 11 Democrats in the House backed the bill, and if that trans­lates to the up­per cham­ber, there’s more than enough op­po­si­tion to fil­i­buster the bill.

Rep. Luis V. Gu­tier­rez, Illi­nois Demo­crat, said the leg­is­la­tion was part of a GOP push to “la­bel Latino youth as ma­chete-wield­ing men­aces.”

“This is not a bill to cur­tail vi­o­lence or make the coun­try safer, it is a po­lit­i­cal bill to al­low Repub­li­cans in the House to make speeches about urg­ing Amer­i­cans to fear young im­mi­grants,” he said.

Po­lice say that while lo­cal gangs kill over dis­putes, of­ten in­volv­ing drugs, MS-13 is a dif­fer­ent threat. Gang mem­bers kill for in­tim­i­da­tion or to en­force dis­ci­pline within the gang.

MS-13 has also cre­ated a mas­sive ex­tor­tion racket, de­mand­ing money from lo­cal im­mi­grant fam­i­lies and busi­nesses and warn­ing of reprisals to their rel­a­tives back in Cen­tral Amer­ica if they don’t pay up. The transna­tional na­ture of the gang, and the na­ture of Cen­tral Amer­i­can mi­gra­tion, makes the threats cred­i­ble, po­lice said.

Thurs­day’s bill would pre­vent mi­grants from claim­ing asy­lum or other spe­cial pro­tec­tions if they’ve been part of a gang. An­a­lysts said some mi­grants who took part in crim­i­nal gang ac­tiv­ity use their for­mer gang mem­ber­ship as the ba­sis to say they now need to re­main in the U.S. to avoid get­ting en­tan­gled with their for­mer co­horts.

The bill would still pre­serve the usual ju­di­cial process, mean­ing any­one snared in the gang des­ig­na­tion could still ar­gue their de­por­ta­tion case to an im­mi­gra­tion judge.

Democrats, though, said they feared re­li­gious or­ga­ni­za­tions and oth­ers that do im­mi­grant out­reach could end up be­ing tar­geted as aid­ing gangs, and said they feared civil rights vi­o­la­tions from giv­ing Home­land Se­cu­rity more pow­ers.

“This bill will pro­mote wide­spread racial pro­fil­ing,” said Rep. Don­ald S. Beyer Jr., a Vir­ginia Demo­crat who rep­re­sents the in­ner sub­urbs near Wash­ing­ton, D.C.

Rep. Bar­bara Com­stock, a Vir­ginia Repub­li­can and neigh­bor of Mr. Beyer’s, pointed to an MS-13 mur­der in 2015 in Alexan­dria — part of Mr. Beyer’s district — where she said a man was “left nearly de­cap­i­tated.”

“Crim­i­nal alien gang mem­bers are grow­ing in our re­gion and around the coun­try, and wreak­ing havoc,” said Ms. Com­stock, the spon­sor of the bill.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Rep. Peter T. King, New York Repub­li­can, said the vi­o­lent Cen­tral Amer­i­can gang MS-13 “has turned my district into killing fields.”

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