Bill to Combat Gang Violence Clears House
Today, the House of Representatives passed by a vote of 233-175 the Criminal Alien Gang Member Removal Act (H.R. 3697). This bill, introduced by Congresswoman Barbara Comstock (R-Va.), Congressman Peter King (R-N.Y.), Congressman Raúl Labrador (R-Idaho), and House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) combats gang violence by criminal aliens and enhances public safety.
Goodlatte and Comstock praised today’s passage of the Criminal Alien Gang Member Removal Act in the statements below.
Chairman Goodlatte: “Gang violence is a threat to communities across our nation and we must provide law enforcement more tools to combat this public safety problem. Federal authorities have found that members of violent transnational gangs, like MS-13, are largely foreign born nationals. We must prevent our nation’s immigration system from being exploited by dangerous gang members seeking to bring crime and illicit activity into our neighborhoods. The Criminal Alien Gang Member Removal Act makes it clear that criminal alien gang members are not eligible to come to the United States and gives law enforcement tools to keep them off our streets. I applaud the House for passing this targeted bill to protect our communities and call on the Senate to pass it, as well as the No Sanctuary for Criminals Act and Kate’s Law, without delay.”
Congresswoman Comstock: “I am pleased the House passed the Criminal Alien Gang Member Removal Act, which I introduced, by a bipartisan vote today. The legislation will provide additional tools to our law enforcement to combat the transnational MS-13 street gang. It will ensure that when ICE positively identifies a known alien gang member, they may act immediately. This legislation identifies gang membership and participation in gang activity as grounds for inadmissibility and removability from the country. In Northern Virginia there have been at least eight brutal murders tied to the transnational MS-13 gang since last November. The Northern Virginia Regional Gang Task Force believes that 3-4,000 MS-13 gang members are in our region and, at a town festival in Herndon earlier this year, the gang task force estimated 200-300 suspected gang members were milling about among families attending the community event. This legislation will make our communities safer by helping to rid gang members from our communities.
“I have also introduced H.R. 3249, the Project Safe Neighborhoods Grant Program Authorization Act, which would establish a grant program to provide resources to state and local entities to curb the rise in gang activity and violence. This legislation authorizes $70 million annually for FY2018 through FY2022. Twenty percent of the authorized $70 million will go directly to already-established gang task forces, like the Northern Virginia Regional Gang Task Force, who are experiencing elevated transnational gang activity from gangs such as MS-13. I am working with my colleagues to move this legislation as well.”
Background: U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has found that membership of violent transnational gangs is comprised largely of foreign-born nationals. In Fiscal Year 2016, over 2,000 criminal aliens removed by ICE were classified as suspected or confirmed gang members. And from Fiscal Years 2016 through 2017, ICE Homeland Security Investigations agents made over 8,000 gang-related criminal arrests, leading to over 2,600 convictions.
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 particularly hard-hit by MS-13 violence. Currently, it is not possible to deport gang members until they are convicted of an independent crime.
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.