House GOP Flirting With Criminalizing Illegal Immigration
Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, and Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., who chairs the chamber’s immigration subcommittee, are proposing a measure that makes it a federal crime – a misdemeanor – to be “unlawfully present in the United States.”
It is already a federal misdemeanor crime under current law to illegally enter the United States. The proposal would make it a crime if someones stays beyond their visa, and it would eliminate a current five-year statute of limitations on prosecution of such crimes.
[source: USA Today]
I see two ways of reading this.
Goodlatte and Gowdy could be floating this to “help” gather support in the House for immigration reform. The USA Today report on this notes that:
the bill is not an attempt to criminalize the 11 million unauthorized immigrants already living in the country. He says he is presuming that they will be legalized under a separate bill – one that hasn’t been filed in the House yet – and says his efforts are aimed at deterring future would-be immigrants from entering the country illegally.
Perhaps they feel that such a measure would be a concession to the “law and order” wing of the party that wants more deterrents against future illegal immigration. However, if that was the case, then wouldn’t it make more sense to put it in as provision in the House version of Immigration reform?
The other possibility is that they are looking to bring this to the floor as a way for House Republicans to signal their frustrations with the “legalization” aspects of the current senate proposal.
Either way, it seems to me that if this passes committee and is brought to the floor, even as a symbolic vote, ahead of immigration reform, history suggests that it’s not going to do much to help the image of the GOP in immigrant communities. And, as I’ve posted elsewhere, the fact that immigration has, rightly or wrongly, become a term that’s taken to be synonymous with the Hispanic community, suggests that the fall out from such a move isn’t going to help with bridging that gap either.