Senators Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) introduced the BE GONE Act, a bill that would add sexual assault and aggravated sexual violence to the definition of “aggravated felony” in the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). Their bill would make it easier to deport sex offenders from the United States.
The term “aggravated felony” holds significant context in the INA. The INA bars aliens who commit aggravated felonies from receiving deportation relief and prevents said aliens from applying for asylum. This is relevant to the current immigration crisis at the southern border because almost every single illegal alien detained at the southern border applies for asylum due to the catch and release policies of the Biden administration.
It is particularly difficult for these aliens to receive any kind of relief from removal. In addition to bars on applying for asylum, these aliens cannot receive cancellation of removal, cannot qualify for voluntary departure, and are further permanently inadmissible to the United States. Following release from any criminal custody, these aliens must undergo mandatory unreviewable detention.
The current INA lists a number of crimes that qualify as aggravated felonies, including alien smuggling, producing or possessing child pornography, and violent crimes such as assault and homicide.
Senators Grassley and Ernst drafted the “Better Enforcement of Grievous Offenses by unNaturalized Emigrants” (BE GONE) to update a shortcoming in the current definition of aggravated felony in the INA by adding “sexual assault” and “aggravated sexual violence.” This is an important issue for Senator Ernst in particular, who noted in the past that she was sexually harassed during her time in the military. In her office’s press release, Senator Ernst said:
Under the Biden Administration, our immigration system is strained to its limits, all by crises born out of their own mistakes. A key challenge and easy fix we must address immediately is ensuring sexual predators and criminals are identified, stopped, and deported. This measure is a commonsense solution to modernize the immigration system and combat sexual violence and those seeking to exploit our laws.
In his own press release, Senator Grassley stated:
The crisis at our southern border has gotten out of control, with record breaking illegal border crossings in recent months. On top of that, there are circumstances where we’re letting folks into our country who have not been properly vetted. We should not allow sexual predators into our country. Plain and simple. This commonsense legislation will provide additional federal protections to help keep predators off our streets.
Ten other senators co-sponsored the BE GONE Act alongside Senators Ernst and Grassley.