The National Immigrant Justice Center, The Immigrant Justice Network, Immigrant Defense Project, Immigrant Legal Resource Center, and the National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild submitted the statement below to the record in opposition to H.R. 6691, which is going to the House floor for a vote this week. 56 immigrant and human rights organizations also sent a letter to representatives encouraging them to oppose the bill.
H.R. 6691 is a retrogressive measure that seeks to expand the federal criminal code and exacerbate mass incarceration at a time when the vast majority of Americans believe the country is ready for progressive criminal justice reform. The bill vastly broadens the scope of the federal term “crime of violence,” a definition with sentencing repercussions throughout the federal criminal code. Because the term is also referenced in one of the harshest provisions of immigration law, the bill would also expand the already vast category of crimes that render even lawfully present immigrants subject to immigration detention and deportation. The bill will cause numerous harms, outlined here and described in detail below:
- H.R. 6691’s expansion of Section 16 of Title 18 of the United States Code, the definition of a “crime of violence,” will expand the criminal justice and incarceration systems. Because this definition is cross-referenced widely throughout the criminal code and incorporated into federal immigration law, this bill will trigger a significant expansion of the penalties attached to even minor criminal conduct in federal criminal court, exacerbate the mass incarceration crisis, and render even more immigrants subject to the disproportionate penalty of deportation.
- H.R. 6691 broadens the “crime of violence” definition far beyond what the statute included prior to the Supreme Court’s decision in Dimaya, including offenses as minor as simple assault and as vague as “communication of threats.”
- H.R. 6691 will expand the already overly punitive immigration consequences of involvement in the criminal justice system by further broadening the already sweeping list of offenses that constitute an “aggravated felony,” in a manner almost entirely duplicative and sometimes at odds with other provisions in federal immigration law.
- If H.R. 6691 became law, there would be serious questions about its constitutionality.
This bill represents a cynical effort to deepen the penalties attached to even minor criminal offenses, further criminalizing immigrants and communities of color. The Immigrant Justice Network, Immigrant Defense Project, Immigrant Legal Resource Center, National Immigrant Justice Center, and the National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild urge Members of Congress to vote NO on H.R. 6691.