The GOP-controlled Congress took a step forward in keeping its immigration promises to the American people with broader interior enforcement. However, it needs to catch up to the same level of strength when it comes to border security.
Moreover, they need to demonstrate that, unlike during last Congress, they are actually serious about getting bicameral support and not just allow it to die in committee.
The Davis-Oliver Act, introduced in the current session by Reps. Raul Labrador, R-Idaho, and Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., is a game-changer for empowering law enforcement to protect our sovereignty. An identical bill passed the House Judiciary Committee during last Congress, and passed again this Thursday.
Long decried as a “mass deportation" measure by its detractors, the bill is focused on interior enforcement of America's immigration laws.
It does such things as strip the ability of the president to get around immigration enforcement, beefs up ICE's detention and deportation powers, deputizes states to enforce immigration laws, bolsters expedited deportations, expands requirements to deport criminal aliens, defunds sanctuary cities, and imposes measures to better prevent and address visa overstays.
You might call it “comprehensive immigration reform" — except, in this instance, that label would be accurate.
The bill is named after two California law enforcement officers who were slain by an illegal immigrant, and enjoys the support of both the National Sheriffs' Association and the National Association of Former Border Patrol Officers, according to The Daily Caller.
The Davis-Oliver Act's political history also makes it an important one. The bill was marked up in the previous congressional session but never made it to the House floor. Trump made it a core campaign promise when he mentioned it by name in his landmark Arizona speech on immigration – and honored the widows of its slain namesakes in his joint address to Congress in February.
“The Davis-Oliver Act is a meaningful interior enforcement bill that gives federal, state, and local law enforcement the tools they need to remove illegal aliens from the interior of the country," Dave Ray, communications director for Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), tells Conservative Review.
“If this bill becomes law, it will prevent future administrations from creating the lawless environment that was rampant under the Obama administration where meaningful interior enforcement was gutted and tens of thousands of criminal aliens freely roamed the streets of our nation."
This bill will help confront many of the challenges in immigration enforcement. At present, less than 1 percent of those overstaying their visas are deported. Moreover, as we've noted ad nauseum at CR, the courts have become an impediment to deporting even criminal aliens. This bill tightens up a lot of statutes and will make it hard for courts to exploit loopholes and invalidate deportations.
Among some of the other provisions of the Davis-Oliver bill:
- Overturns the Zadvydas v. Davis Supreme Court case that Obama has used as an excuse to release criminal aliens after six months of detention
- Explicitly deputizes the states to enforce federal immigration law
- Eliminates sanctuary cities by cutting off DHS and DOJ law enforcement grants
- Expedites deportation of gang members
- Applies the ramifications of treating illegal aliens as criminal aliens to those convicted of drunk driving
- Clamps down on loopholes that allow legal immigrants who commit crimes to continue on the path to citizenship instead of getting deported
Meanwhile, things aren't looking so good for the GOP's imminent border bill — at least for now. Reports say Texas Republicans Sen. John Cornyn and Rep. Mike McCaul have been working on border security legislation in recent days, drawing fire from immigration hawks.
It's “the same stuff they've been peddling for a long time, which doesn't have any teeth in it," FAIR spokesman Ira Melhman told Breitbart News. “This was what they were trying to sell [in 2013] to make the 'Gang of Eight' more palatable to the public."
The bill is still in the drafting stages, and currently being looked over by DHS officials. However, Conservative Review was able to obtain a draft copy of the legislation.
The Cornyn-McCaul bill contains several provisions to increase border security by increasing resources to federal agencies and courts that handle border enforcement and deportations, while defunding sanctuary cities and stiffening penalties for criminal aliens.
However, critics of the Cornyn-McCaul bill, like Center for Immigration Studies' Jessica Vaughan, say the measure doesn't go far enough. Vaughan says that the policies contained in the legislation are merely “tinkering around the margins" of America's greater immigration problem.
“I can't help but wonder if it is designed to be combined with an amnesty," Vaughan told Breitbart News earlier this week. “It would be the typical kind of 'Grand Bargain' offer of some enforcement with a massive amnesty and possibly other kinds of [foreign worker] visa programs."
Most notable among the Cornyn-McCaul bill's shortcomings is that it contains no provisions for a border wall or fence, despite being focused on border security. It would likely weaken current law, which was a key concern Conservative Review pointed out the last time McCaul tried to pass a similar bill in 2015.
In fact, this bill could even hurt the prospect of physical border security more than help it. As we pointed out after the GOP's latest budget buckling, according to Congressional Research Service analysis, no new law is needed to put a border fence in place; Congress simply needs to fund its original mandate from 2006.
Without concrete measures to fund the construction of any new barriers, this bill – as with McCaul's last one – threatens to serve as a legislative pacifier for the next time congressional Republicans fail to appropriate funds for border construction (as they've done for over a decade).
Additionally, the proposed measure currently lacks key enforcement reforms that would address the illicit employment of those lacking legal status.
“There's not a single thing about work-site enforcement or anything at all against employers," Vaughan told The Washington Post, noting that it lacks a nationwide employment verification system to check legal statuses, and is void of any sanctions against employers who hire illegal immigrants.
Finally, it's weak on visa overstays, which make up a greater share of our illegal population than border crossings. While it contains some entry-exit provisions and bars future benefits for illegals on expired visas, similar current provisions on the books have proven to have little to no effect on overstays.
“When someone decides to overstay a visa, they are motivated by the prospect of getting a job and being able to get away with staying in the United States," Vaughan explained to Conservative Review, via email.
“They don't care if that means that someday in the future they might not get a green card if by some remote chance someone might sponsor them. They think it's more likely that there will be an amnesty anyway."
But despite all the reservations about Cornyn-McCaul's, immigration enforcement opponents are already sharpening the knives for the legislation.
A headline at Newsweek points out that the goal is to “punish border crossers," while another story at left-leaning Vocativ fixates itself on one proposed provision of the legislation that would fit illegals under deportation proceedings with ankle bracelets.
“It's absolutely disgusting," immigration attorney David Leopold tells Vocativ. “It smacks of darkest days of the 20th century and some of the world's most oppressive regimes. These lawmakers should be ashamed of themselves."
These characterizations should come as no surprise; any effort to enforce America's immigration laws draws such comparisons, whether the bill actually keeps GOP promises or not.
As stated before, the drafting process isn't finished, as DHS and other advocacy groups are still offering insight, which means that these shortcomings could very well be addressed before the bill is formally introduced.
“A rough draft of the Cornyn-McCaul bill exists," said FAIR's Dave Ray. “FAIR is offering input on our vision for robust and lasting border security. As we hammer out the details, we are hopeful the final product delivers real enforcement measures that have been demanded by the American people."
Now is the perfect time for the president to assume the bully pulpit and stump for the Davis-Oliver Act across the country. He should push a bicameral approach, with the goal of getting the bill on his desk. As for border security, it's not a statutory problem; it's a funding problem. Between Sen. Ted Cruz's El Chapo bill and the cutting of tax credits to illegal aliens, there is no lack of funding sources to pass a bill simply funding what is required by current law. The question is if there is the will.