Rep. Jayapal and Sen. Booker Call for End of Immigration Enforcement

Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) and Senator Cory Booker (D-N.J.) announced their joint introduction of the Federal Immigrant Release for Safety and Security Together (FIRST) Act. The FIRST Act calls for a total cessation of all immigration enforcement in the United States and would facilitate the release of thousands of detained illegal aliens throughout the country, regardless of their criminal history.

Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), and Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) co-sponsored the bill in the Senate. With the exception of Senator Hirono, all Senate co-sponsors all campaigned to become the Democratic Party’s candidate for president. Candidates throughout that campaign promised increasingly radical changes to our immigration law, with some candidates going as far as suggesting that we shut down immigration enforcement agencies. Presumptive nominee Joe Biden promised that he would pursue a pathway to citizenship for every illegal alien in the United States.

The FIRST Act is not a bill entirely different from what the Democratic contenders promised throughout the primary campaign – only this time, they use the COVID-19 crisis as added justification for these proposals. Releasing detained aliens is now essentially a mainstream position in the party. For weeks, some argued without evidence that it was too dangerous inside the holding facilities to justify the continued detention of illegal aliens. Federal judges continue to order aliens released despite Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) efforts to keep the detention facilities free of the virus.

This bill would also fulfill a dream held by far-left Democrats and the open-borders groups alike: halting all immigration enforcement in the country. Section 5 of the bill essentially ends all interior enforcement in the United States by requiring a judge to issue warrants for any ICE operations in “sensitive areas,” conveniently including nonprofit activist offices. Section 5 also bans ICE from making collateral arrests of any kind, eliminating a crucial tool used by ICE to identify illegal aliens and begin their removal proceedings. The only exceptions to the bill’s erasure of immigration enforcement are for individuals who are “likely to pose a specific and substantial risk of causing bodily injury or using violent force against another person.”

Incredibly, the bill prevents using pending criminal charges as a reason to justify detention. Sec.(7)(c) clarifies that the Secretary of Homeland Security “may not justify the redetention of a covered individual solely based on the fact that the individual has a criminal charge pending against him or her; or was convicted of a crime more than 5 years previously.” Covered persons defined in the bill include anyone with existing health conditions, even as minor as an inherited metabolism disorder. Having such an illness, under this bill, would protect someone with pending criminal charges from immigration detention – a get out of jail free card.

Rep. Jayapal and Sen. Booker’s bill has no chance of becoming law, but rather highlights the continuing use by some congressional Democrats of the COVID-19 crisis to pursue their long-held immigration agenda and stymie the efforts of the government to continue enforcing immigration law during the crisis.

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