House passes enforcement-based immigration bill after hours of debate

(This story was originally published for SHFWire on June 19, 2013.)

WASHINGTON – The enforcement-based immigration reform bill won approval from the House Judiciary Committee late Tuesday after more than 12 hours of debate.

The SAFE Act, which would give state and local governments the ability to enforce federal immigration laws and pass their own, was approved on a party line vote of 20-15.

Of the 15 amendments the committee discussed, four passed, three of which were proposed by Republicans. Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., was the only Democrat to propose an amendment that was adopted by the Republican-majority committee.

Under current law, people in the country illegally can be deported if they commit certain crimes. Nadler’s amendment would stop deportation if a conviction is overturned on appeal for constitutional reasons.

All of the failed amendments were proposed by Democrats, with the exception of one proposed byRep. Spencer Bachus, R-Ala., which was an amendment to Rep. Bob Goodlatte’s, R-Va., amendment, which passed.

Goodlatte’s amendment, known as the “manager’s amendment,” would make unlawful presence in the United States a federal misdemeanor, expand the types of crimes that can be a basis for deportation and forbid federal courts from interfering with state and local governments when they enforce immigration laws.

Bachus wanted to delay the effective date of the unlawful presence portion of the amendment.

Reps. Steve King, R-Iowa, and Hank Johnson, D-Ga., withdrew their proposed amendments after debate.

King’s amendment relates to the 14th Amendment to the Constitution, which grants citizenship to everyone born within the country. His amendment would have added a provision to the bill that any baby born in the U.S. is a citizen only if at least one parent is a citizen.

Johnson’s amendment, which was withdrawn for new language and then not voted on, would have removed the section of the bill that allows law enforcement officials to detain suspects for longer than current law allows.

The bill is expected to be sent to the floor after three unrelated bills the committee is working on have been amended, according to the House Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security.

The Senate is debating an immigration bill that it expects to take action by July 4.