The United States House of Representatives approved a bill on May 17 that aims to simplify the deportation process for immigrants who assault law enforcement officers.
Despite objections from Democrats, who expressed concerns about potential unjust deportations, the legislation passed with a vote of 255–175.
The bill, passed during this year’s National Police Week, broadens the definition of a deportable offense to include assaults on police, firefighters and other first responders, expanding beyond convictions to encompass cases where immigrants admit to involvement in such incidents.
The Republican-backed bill is expected to face opposition in the Democrat-controlled Senate.
New York Republican Representative Andrew Garbarino, the bill’s sponsor, argued that it clarifies a previously ambiguous aspect of the law and enhances officer safety by facilitating the removal of migrants who commit severe acts of violence in the United States.
“This is about improving officer safety and making it easier to remove migrants who have demonstrated flagrant criminal violence while on U.S. soil,” Garbarino said.
Garbarino adds that the bill seeks to protect law enforcement officers amid the ongoing border crisis.
“As the Biden border crisis rages on, I have serious concerns about the ramifications for law enforcement officers who are on the front lines dealing with migrants,” Garbarino said. “Whether on Long Island or at the southern border, there should be no ambiguity that assaulting a police officer is a deportable offense for non-citizens. The POLICE Act would ensure that we can hold criminals accountable for violence against law enforcement officers who are simply doing their jobs.”
However, House Democrats criticized the bill as too broad in its scope.
Jerrold Nadler, Democratic head of the House Judiciary Committee, expressed concerns that the legislation could lead to the deportation of U.S. permanent residents who unintentionally or unknowingly harm an officer, such as in medical emergencies or when intervening in altercations involving undercover officers.
Nadler also noted that assaulting a law enforcement officer is already considered a deportable offense, and stated that if the bill “closed an actual gap in current law and made our country safer, Democrats would gladly support it.”
“Unfortunately, this bill represents another unserious attempt by my Republican colleagues to target and scapegoat immigrants and to score cheap political points,” he added.
The Democrats’ attempts to amend the bill were unsuccessful. Lou Correa, the top Democrat on the House Homeland Security Committee’s border panel, proposed an amendment requiring a criminal conviction before a legal immigrant could face deportation under the bill, but it was rejected with a vote of 209–225.
Correa argued for due process under the law, expressing concerns that individuals could be deported based solely on accusations.
The Biden administration expressed similar concerns regarding the bill’s language but did not explicitly threaten a veto.
In a statement, the administration acknowledged the need to appropriately punish individuals who assault law enforcement officers but voiced apprehension that the bill’s current draft could result in the deportation of non-violent individuals, including long-term lawful permanent residents with clean records.
During National Police Week, thousands of officers gathered in Washington, D.C., for planned events honoring law enforcement.
During a press conference, Representative Elise Stefank and chairwoman of the conference, gave a statement on behalf of Republican lawmakers, vowing to support law enforcement.
“This National Police Week, we honor the fallen law enforcement officers who have given up their lives in the name of our safety and protection, and we stand in full support of the brave men and women in blue who continue to make sacrifices for us every single day,” Stefank said.
Legislators also passed a separate bill by a vote of 232–198, permitting federal law enforcement officers to purchase their retired service weapons.