Unfortunately, the legislation being considered by Congress in response to concerns about overly-long prison sentences for Americans has been crafted to primarily benefit criminal aliens. (Those are not Americans but citizens of other countries who have been imprisoned for committing serious crimes in the U.S.)
That's the conclusion of our legislative affairs team after several weeks of scrutinizing documents and reports, and of meeting with a number of experts on the issue.
NumbersUSA takes no position on issues of sentencing reform for Americans.
But we have to get involved with the current sentencing reform legislation (companion bills S. 2123 and H.R. 3713) because most of the people who would benefit from it would be criminal aliens who would be helped to avoid deportation and to re-enter the job market to the detriment of struggling American workers.
Reports are surfacing in Washington that both chambers of Congress are preparing this spring to pass S. 2123 and H.R. 3713 which were approved by the respective Judiciary Committees last October.
Speaker Paul Ryan has called passing the legislation a priority.
As currently written, the legislation would result in the massive release of criminal aliens from federal prisons into the streets. It could alternatively be called the Criminal Alien Prison Release Act of 2016, but that bill title probably wouldn't garner many votes in Congress.
The bills would retroactively reduce the minimum sentencing requirements for all individuals (regardless of their citizenship or immigration status) convicted of certain federal crimes. It would only apply to federal prisons, which comprise 9% of the entire incarcerated population in the United States.
Its impact on reforming sentencing guidelines for U.S. citizens would be minimal.
In a letter sent to Sen. Jeff Sessions last fall, the Federal Bureau of Prisons reported that 77% of individuals convicted of federal drug possession charges and more than 25% of individuals convicted of federal drug trafficking charges in FY2015 were non-citizens. Since these are the individuals who would most likely be released, you can see our concern with the legislation. Further, there is no requirement in the legislation that Immigration and Customs Enforcement take custody of a criminal alien who is released and remove them from the United States, even when their conviction by current law should result in their immediate removal under current law.
In October of 2015, the Obama Administration released 6,600 inmates from federal prison after the U.S. Sentencing Commission revised its guidelines. One-third of those released were non-citizens. Shortly before the release, the Center for Immigration Studies uncovered a letter written by 14 immigration-expansionist organizations to the Department of Homeland Security, pleading with the Administration to consider the criminal aliens for prosecutorial discretion under Pres. Obama's 2014 executive actions.
"We urge ICE not to rush to judgment on these immigrants' cases, but instead to commit to ensuring individualized due process in each case. ...
"Each of these immigrants, including those with an "aggravated felony" and those with final removal orders, must be individually assessed for [Prosecutorial Discretion]. The 2014 DHS civil enforcement priorities memorandum specifies that removal of Priority 1 immigrants may be deprioritized if "there are compelling and exceptional factors that clearly indicate the alien is not a threat to national security, border security, or public safety and should not therefore be an enforcement priority."
The full letter can be read here.
Given the Administration's history on interior enforcement, the bills, as written, would allow tens of thousands of deportable criminal aliens to return to the American communities they victimized in the first place. Just last year, the Administration released 90,000 criminal aliens from custody -- roughly 60% of all criminal aliens it came in contact with. In fact, the criminal aliens who were responsible for the 2015 killing of Kate Steinle and the 2014 murders of California Detective Michael Davis, Jr. and Deputy Sheriff Danny Oliver had been earlier convicted for the same class of federal drug crimes that lawmakers seek to reform through this legislation.
Unfortunately, the provisions of the bills that would result in the release of criminal aliens are central to the efforts of both House and Senate-- and key to the Democrats' support of the bills. Unless the criminal alien issues are addressed, NumbersUSA must call for rejection of the legislation. Sentencing reform efforts should focus on new legislation that isn't a Trojan horse for yet another kind of amnesty.
Local American communities (disproportionately Black and Hispanic) into which released criminal aliens likely would return should not be asked to bear this burden under an Administration that has eviscerated immigration enforcement.
CHRIS CHMIELENSKI is the Director of Content & Activism
Updated: Fri, Apr 29th 2016 @ 10:26am EDT