Representative Diane Black (TN-R) introduced legislation in the House that would label illegal border crossing a felony, even for a first time offender. Under the Zero Tolerance for Illegal Entry Act, people detained after illegally crossing the United States border, even first time offenders, could be charged with a felony and minimum sentencing requirements of a year and one day would apply.
Black states of the legislation: “First of all, we change it from a misdemeanor to a felony. So if you cross the border, it now is a felony and so the significance of that is not only the difference in the incarceration time that you might be held but the fact that later down the road if you try to get back into the country, if you have a felony, it would be more difficult or potentially impossible to come.
So if you, later on, think, ‘well I would like to do this through the legal means,’ it would disqualify you from getting a green card.”
Currently, detention after illegally crossing the border into the United States for the first time is treated as a misdemeanor. This is significantly less serious than a felony with a jail sentence of fewer than six months and generally less than that.
The bill also seeks to place a mandate on all employers requiring them to use E-verify. E-verify is a system that allows businesses to confirm the immigration status of applicants and therefore making the determination if they are legally able to work in the United States.
The bill also seeks to significantly strengthen the penalty against all those that enter the country illegally in defiance of U.S. immigration laws by shifting the funding from sanctuary cities to the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE).
Black notes that the most significant and often primary reason many people seek to cross into the U.S. illegally is for economic reasons, seeking a better life than where they originally come from.
She believes adding the E-verify requirement will be an encouragement for those people to seek to enter the country by legal means.
She states: “E-verify, even though we’ve talked about it for years it has never been something that’s been in place all the way across the line. That would keep someone from coming here illegally if they thought they couldn’t get work. ‘Why would I come if I can’t get work.’”
That particular point seems to be a point of contention in House negotiations as immigration reform is a hot button issue currently being discussed. Two previous measures have been presented and both failed to gain the votes needed to keep them alive to be sent to the upper chamber for further review.
Black, however, is not detoured, believing the simplicity of her version of the bill will make it a much easier sell. She states: “We’ve got the big bills that we do that have a lot of moving pieces in it you get the ‘I don’t like this one and I don’t like that one,’ so it’s kind of the alphabet soup that can keep you from actually being able to move something. But I think this for me is simple enough that we could get this moved.”
Black is currently running for governor of the state of Tennessee against Knoxville entrepreneur Randy Boyd. She is currently leading that run by a narrow margin and has named immigration as a central part of her campaign as it is a critical issue in her state currently.
A 2017 analysis of labor force participation rates using the government’s Current Population Survey (CPS) data for Tennessee, shows that: “immigrants (legal and illegal) accounted for all of the net increase in the number of working-age (16-65) people holding a job in Tennessee between the first quarter of 2007 and the first quarter of 2017 – even though the native-born accounted for 77 percent of growth among the total working-age population. Prior analysis indicates that 30 percent to 40 percent of immigrants in Tennessee are in the country illegally. Of the 229,000 immigrants in the state working, 70,000 to 90,000 are likely to be illegal immigrants.”
According to the Tennessee Star, even activist, pro-illegal immigration attorneys admit there is an illegal immigration problem, stating:
On April 7, 2017, Nashville activist pro-illegal immigration lawyers Elliot Ozment, J. Gerard Stranch, IV, Tricia Herzfeld and Anthony Orlandi, sued Metro Nashville, Davidson County and Sheriff Daron Hall, on behalf of Saudi national Abdullah Abriq, who overstayed his student visa, and “hundred and likely thousands of immigrants” subject to detainer requests issued by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and that “[u]pon information and belief, the Defendants have taken custody of, and detained, thousands of Administrative Detainees over the past five years.”
ICE has the responsibility and authority to detain foreign nationals who overstay their visas and those who have entered the U.S. illegally even if they have not committed a criminal offense.
So far in the fiscal year 2017, thirty-seven percent of immigration offenders adjudicated in immigration court involving either simple immigration violations and/or a criminal offense, have been allowed to remain in Tennessee. Of cases where the judge permits the offender to remain, over 1,000 of the cases involve immigration violations while sixteen are classified as ‘criminal/national security/terror.”
Black states she believes this is simply “common sense” legislation that tackles the concerns of her own constituents as well as those of the rest of the nation. “People want the border protected, and they’re not against immigration. they’re really not — they just want people to do it legally,” she said.
This bill would also seek to cut funding from all sanctuary cities and counties that refuse to honor requests from ICE for illegal aliens being detained by local law enforcement. Their funds would be stripped from them and instead given to ICE to fund the effort to secure the borders.
The Federation for American Immigration Reform or (FAIR) recently issued a report identifying some 564 jurisdictions that qualify for sanctuary status because in one way or another as they have effectively taken steps to “protect illegal aliens or obstruct efforts by the federal government to enforce immigration laws.
Dan Stein, President of FAIR credits “radical groups, posing as ‘immigrants’ rights’ organizations” for pushing policies that put protecting illegal aliens over the safety of American citizens and legal immigrants – ‘There is no rational justification for protecting deportable criminals.
Yet, under pressure from radical groups, posing as ‘immigrants’ rights’ organizations, 564 jurisdictions have decided that protecting foreign criminals is more important than the safety of their local communities,’ charged Dan Stein, president of FAIR.
Countless Americans have been needlessly victimized, and some have lost their lives, because local sanctuary policies prevented the perpetrators from being identified as deportable aliens, or prevented Immigration and Customs Enforcement from taking them into custody.’
FAIR notes in the report – Sanctuary policies and practices come in many forms including “welcoming resolutions,” local ordinances and internal law enforcement policy.
These policies and practices often “forbid state and local officials (including law enforcement officers) from asking people about their immigration status; reporting suspected illegal aliens to the federal government; holding criminal aliens for arrest by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE); or otherwise cooperating with or assisting federal immigration enforcement agents.”
The Hill notes that earlier this year, Black also introduced legislation that would create a “border wall trust fund,” allowing people to donate money toward President Trump’s border wall.
Black said the bill would allow those “who really want to see a secure border” to donate to a trust to raise money for the security measure.