Apr 28 2015

WASHINGTON, DC – Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa, Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, along with North Carolina senators Thom Tillis and Richard Burr, today introduced legislation prohibiting people with gang ties from receiving deferred deportation and other immigration benefits. The bill also makes gang members deportable and inadmissible for immigration purposes.

“North Carolina is unfortunately all too familiar with the tragic consequences of the Obama administration’s failure to properly vet and subsequently deport known gang members who are in the country illegally. I am pleased to support commonsense legislation that promotes a zero tolerance policy toward gang members who are non-citizens of the United States, which in turn will remove violent criminals off our streets and help keep our communities safe,” Tillis said. 

“The circumstances around this bill are incredibly sad – four are dead following this administration’s inability to enforce their own ill-conceived executive order. If the President can’t take steps to ensure that Americans are safe from criminal gang members, then Congress must take preventative action. I hope that Congress will pass this law to ensure criminals cannot stay in this country, even under this President’s edict,” Burr said.

“It’s unfortunate that an act of Congress is required to explicitly prevent the federal government from providing safe haven to criminal gang members, but it’s clear that the current policies and practices are not working. Just today, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said known membership in a criminal gang ‘should constitute as a disqualifier from DACA,’ yet an agency that he oversees has granted DACA to known criminals or criminal gang members at least 282 times.  This legislation is designed to improve public safety by blocking gang members from receiving immigration benefits and relief from removal—something President Obama said he would do,” Grassley said.

The Grassley-Tillis-Burr bill follows a recent acknowledgement by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services that it wrongly granted deferred action for a known gang member who is now charged with four counts of 1st degree murder.  Despite admitting that proper protocols were not followed, the agency did not affirm that it has a zero tolerance policy against criminal gang members. At a Senate Judiciary Committee oversight hearing, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson confirmed that the breakdown occurred in the background check process, raising new questions about possible systemic failures by the USCIS to screen DACA applicants, among others.

The Grassley-Tillis-Burr bill seeks to improve public safety by clarifying that members of criminal gangs are not eligible for DACA and should be placed in an expedited removal process.  Specifically, the bill would:

  • Make current and former members of a criminal gang inadmissible and deportable, 
  • Define 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,
  • Require mandatory detention of persons arrested by the Department of Homeland Security who are members of a criminal gang,
  • Make criminal gang members ineligible for deferred action, and limits use of parole unless that gang member has provided assistance in a law enforcement matter and is needed in the United States to provide such assistance; and
  • Expedite removal procedures for dangerous criminals, terrorists and gang members.

In a 2014 speech, President Obama said his executive order would focus removals on people who have broken laws other than the nation’s immigration policies. “Felons, not families. Criminals, not children. Gang members, not a mom who’s working hard to provide for her kids,” Obama said regarding the administration’s priority for removals.