Immigration reform activists were blasting House Republicans Thursday for approving bills that seek to increase deportations of people here illegally and send children who arrive unaccompanied at the border alone back to their home countries.
Critics said the bills approved Wednesday by the House Judiciary Committee are a move backward on immigration. They said they harken to the days of calls for mass deportations by deputizing local law enforcement officers to act as immigration officers and by making it a criminal offense to be illegally present in the U.S. rather than a civil one.
“This morning, I had to check my calendar to make sure we hadn’t traveled back in time as the House Judiciary Committee Republicans launched another attack on immigrants,” said Lorella Praelli, director of policy and advocacy for United We Dream.
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The enforcement bill is known as the SAFE Act and is virtually the same bill by the same name that failed in 2013. The committee also passed on a party line vote a bill making it harder for unaccompanied child immigrants to get legal help and would make it harder for them to show they have a credible fear of persecution if returned to their home countries. But the bill would protect families persecuted for home schooling children.
In a statement, Rep. Bob Goodlatte, the committee’s chairman, said the SAFE Act remedies the problem of President Barack Obama failing to enforce immigration laws by preventing one person from unilaterally shutting down the government.”
Iowa Republican Rep. Steve King, who has said young immigrants have thighs the size of cantaloupes because they haul drug loads, attempted to give Capitol Police authority to arrest immigrants for being in the country illegally.
“Who knew Steve King had such thin skin?” said Ray Jose, who has delivered cantaloupes to King and is a United We Dream organizer. Rep. King's proposal failed.