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House Passes Bills to Strengthen Border Security, Fight Crime

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September 21, 2006 | Kate Matus ((202) 226-7326) | comments

WASHINGTON – Wisconsin’s First District Congressman Paul Ryan today voted in favor of three pieces of legislation to improve border security and prevent dangerous illegal immigrants, including gang members, from exploiting our nation’s immigration laws. The House passed these bills – H.R. 4830, the Border Tunnel Prevention Act; H.R. 6094, the Community Protection Act; and H.R. 6095, the Immigration Law Enforcement Act – which await further action in the Senate or, potentially, in House-Senate conference negotiations on future legislation.

“We need to do a better job enforcing our borders, if we are serious about national security,” said Ryan. “It’s not just a matter of people trying to cross illegally for economic reasons. Insecure borders create an opening for terrorists to enter our country. We also have to protect our communities from criminals and gang members who are here illegally. The bills the House passed are just one part of the solution to our broken immigration system, but they contain necessary improvements to help us secure our borders and communities.” 

The legislation approved by the House today includes provisions that:

  • Enact criminal penalties of up to 20 years’ imprisonment for individuals who construct or finance the construction of an unauthorized tunnel across a U.S. international border.

  • Provide for up to a 10-year prison sentence for individuals who recklessly permit the construction of a tunnel or passage crossing international borders on their property.

  • Double the penalties for anyone caught using a tunnel or passage to unlawfully smuggle illegal immigrants, contraband, drugs, weapons of mass destruction, or terrorists.

  • Allow the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to use the same expedited procedures available for the removal of aggravated felons to remove other criminal aliens who are not permanent residents and are otherwise ineligible for relief. 

  • Toughen laws against illegal immigrant gang members. Under the bill, an illegal immigrant who is found to be part of a criminal street gang would be subject to detention, deportation, and would be ineligible for receiving asylum or temporary protected status.

  • Implement a process to extend the amount of time criminal aliens that cannot be deported can be detained, enabling DHS to keep these criminals from being released back into society. (Some illegal immigrants who are being detained by DHS are unable to be deported for a variety of reasons. Yet under current law, DHS cannot detain these illegal immigrants for more than six months, even if the individual has committed a violent crime or represents a threat to national security. This legislation addresses this by enhancing DHS’s ability to detain illegal immigrants in a variety of circumstances.

  • Reaffirm the authority of state and local law enforcement to enforce immigration laws.

  • Require an increase in the number of U.S. attorneys dedicated to prosecuting cases of illegal immigrant smuggling and expresses the sense of Congress that the Attorney General should adopt uniform guidelines for the prosecution of smuggling offenses.

  • Close loopholes that have hurt DHS’s ability to practice “catch and return” as opposed to “catch and release.” For example, an injunction dating from the El Salvadoran civil war of the 1980s prevents DHS from placing Salvadorans in expedited removal proceedings, even though the civil war has long since ended. 

Last week, the House also passed legislation that requires the systematic surveillance of America’s land and sea borders and designates areas of the southern border where fences are to be constructed to secure the border. Congressman Ryan voted in favor of this legislation – H.R. 6061, the Secure Fence Act – which is being debated in the Senate.

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