House Judiciary Committee Approves Bill to Help Local Law Enforcement Combat Gang Violence
The Project Safe Neighborhoods Grant Program Authorization Act provides much needed tools for state and local law enforcement agencies to address gang activity.The House Judiciary Committee today approved by voice vote the Project Safe Neighborhoods Grant Program Authorization Act (H.R. 3249) to curb the rise in gang activity and violence in the United States. This bill, introduced by Congresswoman Barbara Comstock (R-Va.), establishes a grant program to provide resources to state and local law enforcement agencies to combat gang activity in their communities, authorizing $50 million annually for Fiscal Year 2018 through Fiscal Year 2020.
According to the Department of Justice, MS-13, a transnational gang that is notoriously violent and comprised of members mostly from Central America, has 10,000 members inside the United States and 40,000 members worldwide. MS-13 originated in Los Angeles in the 1980s and now engages in gang activities in at least 40 states and the District of Columbia. Communities in Boston, New York, Virginia, and the Washington, D.C. metro area have been hard-hit by MS-13 violence.
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) and Congresswoman Comstock applauded today’s Committee approval of the Project Safe Neighborhoods Grant Program Authorization Act in the statements below.
Chairman Goodlatte: “Gang violence plagues many communities across the United States, and the Commonwealth of Virginia has been particularly hard-hit by this problem. Earlier this year in my district, Raymond Wood was killed by suspected members of MS-13. As gangs have infiltrated our neighborhoods, we must ensure local law enforcement officers have the resources needed to prevent and combat gang violence and activity. The Project Safe Neighborhoods Grant Program Authorization Act provides much needed tools for state and local law enforcement agencies to address gang activity, and I thank Congresswoman Comstock for her dedication to eradicating this public safety crisis.”
Congresswoman Comstock: “I want to thank Chairman Bob Goodlatte and the members of the Judiciary Committee for passing my legislation, the Project Safe Neighborhoods Grant Program Authorization Act today. This bill will help steer federal funding toward frontline regional gang task forces like the Northern Virginia Regional Gang Task Force. The resurgence of MS-13 in Northern Virginia has led to at least eight murders over the past year tied to MS-13 and other gangs, representing a 166% increase over last year. The Project Safe Neighborhoods Grant Program Authorization Act will provide vital resources to established regional gang task forces like the one we have here in Northern Virginia so that these brave men and women can get MS-13 off of our streets. I look forward to the bill soon being voted on in the full House.”
• In September 2017, the House of Representatives approved the Criminal Alien Gang Member Removal Act (H.R. 3697). This bill, introduced by Congresswoman Comstock, Congressman Peter King (R-N.Y.), Immigration and Border Security Subcommittee Chairman Raúl Labrador (R-Idaho), and Chairman Goodlatte combats gang violence by criminal aliens and enhances public safety.
• In order to protect Americans from these violent gangs, the Criminal Alien Gang Member Removal Act ensures that alien gang members are kept off our streets by barring them from coming to the United States and detaining and removing them if they are criminal gang members or participate in gang activity. Additionally, the bill ensures that criminal alien gang members are not eligible for immigration benefits, such as asylum, special immigrant juvenile status, and temporary protected status, which are reserved for those around the world most in need of protection.
• Chairman Goodlatte and Congresswoman Comstock have also called on the FBI and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to combat MS-13 gang activity in Virginia.