A controversial immigration bill, the Strengthen and Fortify Enforcement Act, the SAFE Act was approved by the House Judiciary Committee by a vote of 20 to 15, on 18th June. This measure would permit the state and the local governments to create and enforce their own laws and to arrest undocumented immigrants. This bill would grant the state and the local authorities, authorization to arrest foreign nationals who overstay their non-immigrant visas. Likewise, they would also be given the ability to arrest the people who illegally cross the border.
Though the members of the Democratic party are against this bill, the House Judiciary Committee controlled by the Republicans, passed this tough bill that focuses on immigration enforcement. If this bill is signed into law, people who overstay their visas will be criminally charged. Similarly, this bill would make it a federal crime to live in America illegally. Currently, living in the country illegally is only a civil offense and not a federal crime. But this bill would make it a federal crime to be undocumented in the United States. Moreover, it would empower the local and state police officers to arrest undocumented immigrants and to enforce federal immigration laws.
According to the Democrats, this law is dangerous and it would criminalize almost all the immigrant families. Rep. Bob Goodlatte, stated that the SAFE Act does not aim at criminalizing the country’s undocumented immigrants but at discouraging more people from entering illegally into America. Opponents of the SAFE Act say that more police officers would be necessary to enforce laws and that this would cost the country a lot. Critics say that this bill is similar to the controversial immigration bill that was passed by Arizona in 2010.
The House Committee debated for more than 12 hours and finally voted on this controversial bill and the SAFE Act is the first Republican immigration reform bill. At the same time, the Committee is working on few smaller bills that include provisions for agricultural workers, border security provisions, etc. Nevertheless, the top priority for the Republicans would be border security.