House lawmakers passed legislation Thursday that would make suspected membership in the violent MS-13 street gang a sufficient cause for deportation.
It is not clear whether the bill will pass the Senate, but President Donald Trump is expected to sign the bill if it reaches his desk.
President Trump has cited the violent acts of MS-13 as a prime example of why securing the border and overhauling the current immigration system is of paramount importance to the nation. Many MS-13 members are in the United States illegally, but some MS-13 members are immigrants currently in this country legally. Still others are Americans who have been recruited.
The House passed H.R. 3697 in response to MS-13’s growing violence and its ties to Mexican drug cartels. Section 2(b) of the bill makes suspected membership in a “criminal gang” (including MS-13) sufficient cause to ban for life a foreigner from entering the United States. Section 2(c) of the bill makes membership in a criminal gang or involvement in any criminal gang activity grounds for immediate deportation.
Rep. Barbara Comstock (R-VA) introduced the bill. She was joined by several congressmen representing different wings of the GOP as original cosponsors, including Rep. Raul Labrador (R-ID) from the conservative-libertarian wing, Rep. Peter King (R-NY) from the moderate wing, and House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) from the mainstream conservative block of the GOP.
H.R. 3697 passed the House on September 14, by a vote of 233-175 on almost a straight party-line vote. Republicans favored the bill 222-1, while Democrats opposed the bill 11-174. Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI) was the sole Republican to vote against Comstock’s bill.
The legislation is opposed by the American Civil Liberties Union and other left wing civil-rights groups, who claim that the legislation is inconsistent with due process and other constitutional rights.
The bill now heads to the Senate, where its fate is uncertain. The House has approved 250 bills this year that have not passed the Senate.