House Committee Debates Anti-Immigrant Davis-Oliver Act Bill

Image courtesy of Erlend Bjørtvedt

Trump-supporters in the House of Representatives began work on three anti-immigrant bills last week and will continue mark-up this week. During mark-up, the committee (in this case, the House Judiciary Committee) debates, amends, and rewrites the bills. The bills are enforcement-only measures that mimic the harsh approach to immigration control taken by the President.

One of these bills is the Davis-Oliver bill. The Michael Davis Jr. and Danny Oliver in Honor of State and Local Law Enforcement Act (H.R 2431) is named after two police officers allegedly killed by an immigrant. The original version of this bill was first introduced in 2015 by now-Attorney General Jeff Sessions. At the time, the bill went nowhere. This is because elected officials recognized that such a bill will lead to widespread racial profiling of Latinos and Asian Americans.

The bill allows state and local governments to pass their own immigration laws. This is an attempt to encourage anti-immigrant legislation, like Arizona’s “Show Me Your Papers” law that the Supreme Court struck down. The bill would also empower local police to enforce immigration laws, whether they know anything about those laws or not.

Under this bill, any state official who suspects that a person is an undocumented immigrant can demand that the person prove his or her legal status. If the state official is not satisfied with the proof, the official can arrest the person. The state official can do this even if the state law does not authorize such actions. So, if this bill is passed, we could see New York State Troopers stopping pedestrians in Hempstead and checking visas and passports.

The bill also outlaws “sanctuary” cities by making cities that don’t honor Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) administrative detainers ineligible for law enforcement grants. It also allows crime victims to sue these cities if they are the victims of crimes by certain undocumented immigrants.

The bill would also create a whole host of new immigration crimes that could lead to criminal convictions and jail time. A brief overstay of a visa would now be a criminal issue. Millions of otherwise law-abiding people would be outlaws under this act.

I will address the other two bills later this week. They rewrite the mission of the Federal Immigration Service and turn ICE into a heavily armed paramilitary force. This is a dangerous raft of legislation that you need to oppose.