This week, the House took strong action to deal with the ever-growing threat of transnational criminal gangs such as MS-13.

The House passed my bill, H.R. 3697, which bars alien gang members from coming to the U.S. and detains and removes them if they are criminal gang members or participate in gang activity. This is the third time this year the House has passed portions of the Davis-Oliver Act, which I introduced in May, to strengthen immigration enforcement. 

According to U.S. Immigration and Enforcement (better known as “ICE”), violent transnational gangs “have grown to become a serious threat in American communities across the nation – not only in cities, but increasingly in suburban and even rural areas” and “entire neighborhoods and sometimes whole communities are held hostage by and subjected to their violence.” Furthermore, ICE has found that “membership of these violent transnational gangs [is] comprised largely of foreign-born nationals.”

At every level, our law enforcement officials are working to curb this growing threat with large scale enforcement actions. However, it’s notoriously difficult to prosecute criminal gang members. Victims of gang crime and witnesses are often reluctant to testify because of the reasonable fear of retaliation. Thus, many gang members are never convicted of the crimes they commit.

The question is often asked: “Why should law-abiding Americans have to wait until an alien gang member has committed a deportable offense? Why not deport the gang member before he has a chance to victimize more innocent people?”

The answer is that current immigration law contains dangerous loopholes that alien gang members are exploiting. Currently, an alien may not be deported even if he is known to be a member of a criminal gang or participating in gang activities. ICE must wait for the gang member to first be convicted of a deportable offense. 

H.R. 3697, the Criminal Alien Gang Member Removal Act, changes that. For the first time, ICE will be permitted to place alien gang members into removal proceedings on the grounds of being criminal gang members. In addition, H.R. 3697 ensures that criminal alien gang members are not eligible for immigration benefits, such as asylum, special immigrant juvenile status, and temporary protected status.

On June 29, the House passed two bills that were taken out of the Davis-Oliver Act: Kate’s Law, which increases penalties for deported felons who return to the U.S; and the No Sanctuary for Criminals Act, which combats sanctuary policies that shield illegal immigrants from federal immigration enforcement. Now we can add a third bill to the list: The Criminal Alien Gang Member Removal Act. To watch my House floor speech in support of the act, please click here

The federal government’s most important responsibility is the safety and security of American families. The bills I’ve introduced – and that the House has passed – help fulfill that responsibility. Now it’s time for the Senate to act so these bills can become law. 

I remain committed to do all that I can to fix our broken immigration system and to keep the people of Idaho safe and secure.