House Judiciary Committee Passes SAFE Act

1156821_handcuffs.jpgEarlier this week, the House of Representatives Judiciary Committee passed a measure that would make being an unauthorized immigrant in the U.S. a federal crime. The physical act of entering the country without inspection is currently a federal misdemeanor crime, but the new bill would criminalize the unlawful presence resulting from either entering without inspection or overstaying one's visa.

The bill is called the Strengthen and Fortify Enforcement Act (SAFE Act) and would also allow state and/or local governments to implement their own immigration laws as long as these statutes are in line with existing federal law. Moreover, the SAFE Act also provides local law enforcement officers with increased power to seek out, detain, and charge unauthorized immigrants for entering the U.S. without inspection or for staying past their authorized period of stay.

In response to the Republican-backed measure, many Democrats who opposed the bill allege that the bill could endanger local communities and jeopardize the safety of the public by diverting law enforcement officers to investigate immigration violations (which are nonviolent) in place of investigating more serious crimes. A number of Democrats also contend that the bill would likely deter unauthorized immigrants from coming forward as eyewitnesses or otherwise aiding law enforcement and their investigations, for fear that they would be detained and deported after talking to the police.

However, according to House Republican Trey Gowdy (SC) who sponsored the bill, the SAFE Act is merely trying to address future unauthorized immigration, and is just one example of several similar bills that the House Judiciary Committee will review in its efforts to adopt a workable solution to the U.S.'s fractured immigration system.

Along with the SAFE Act, the committee will soon be reviewing a bill dedicated to foreign agricultural workers. The purpose of the Ag Act is to create a temporary visa status reserved only for agricultural workers which would allow them to work in the U.S. for three years and then depart the country for three months.

Of course, this bill is not without its critics as well as many Democrats, farm unions, and immigration proponents are opposed to the bill as they believe it would establish a class of underpaid temporary workers while simultaneously preventing these same workers from taking advantage of welfare and assistance programs.

While these bills are presented for committee consideration, the comprehensive immigration reform legislation continues to be deliberated by Congress. Congress previously predicted that the immigration reform would pass by July 4, 2013. But as the debates continue, it seems unlikely that Congress will be able to hold true to that timeframe.

At the Gee Law Firm, we understand that the consequences of unauthorized presence in the U.S. may be dire and could affect future immigration opportunities for several years to come. Our attorneys are available to answer your questions concerning these prospective new immigration laws and to advise you on how you may ensure that your stature in the U.S. is never jeopardized. Contact our office today at 650-293-0270 to discuss your immigration options with our skilled attorneys.

Additional Blog Posts

California Dream Act Is a Step in the Right Direction for Undocumented Students, Silicon Valley Immigration Lawyer Blog, July 29, 2011
Changing Minds About Immigration: UFW's "Take Our Jobs" Campaign, Silicon Valley Immigration Lawyer Blog, July 21, 2010
Authored by Michelle Gee

Immigration Reform / by Michelle Gee