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Over the past six months, the House Judiciary Committee, which I chair, has convened numerous hearings on immigration and introduced several bills that address many of the issues plaguing our immigration system. In the 1986 immigration reform, Americans were promised tough interior enforcement of our immigration laws, but that promise was never kept. Nearly 30 years later, the Committee acted on an integral piece of the puzzle by approving the Strengthen and Fortify Enforcement Act, also known as the SAFE Act. This legislation delivers an actual robust interior enforcement strategy that Americans demand and strengthens the security of our country.
The primary reason why our immigration system is broken today is because the present and past administrations have largely ignored or been selective in the enforcement of our immigration laws. Under the SAFE Act, the Obama Administration and future Administrations will no longer be able to unilaterally turn-off the enforcement of our immigration laws. The bill will also increase border security, making it more difficult for foreign nationals who pose a national security risk to enter and remain in the U.S., and improve visa security in high risk countries.
Interior immigration enforcement is a challenge for communities across the nation, including those in our region. At a recent hearing, Randy Krantz, Commonwealth’s Attorney for Bedford County, shared the story of a man who was severely injured in a car accident with a drunk driver. The drunk driver also happened to be in the country illegally and was not deported from the United States after being charged with a DUI. Because of the failures of the immigration system, all too often we see illegal immigrants who have been charged with these crimes released back into the community at a significant risk to public safety.
Not only does the bill strengthen immigration enforcement by giving the federal government the tools it needs to enforce our laws, but it also ensures that where the federal government fails to act, states can pick up the slack. The SAFE Act maintains the integrity of our immigration system by granting states and local governments who are already on the ground the authority to enforce federal immigration laws. Under the SAFE Act, the ability of local law enforcement and prosecutors, like Mr. Krantz and others throughout the Sixth District, to communicate, cooperate, and coordinate with federal law enforcement will be enhanced and strengthen their ability to protect their communities.
Broken promises in the past have led to a broken immigration system. The SAFE Act fulfills a longstanding promise to the American people and promotes respect for the rule of law in America. While more work has to be done, the approval of the SAFE Act at the Committee level brings us one step closer to fully addressing needed immigration reform. I have, and will continue, to take a step by step approach to immigration reform, thoroughly examining each part of this issue in detail and working to find consensus on the other issues we need to fix.