Recent events have brought a renewed focus on criminal justice reform in Congress, and yesterday, the four Senators leading the effort in that chamber called for the consideration of their legislation S. 2123 to reform the federal sentencing guidelines. Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Mike Lee (R-Utah), and Corey Booker (D-N.J.) gave consecutive speeches on the Senate floor, pushing for passage of the bill, but not one of them talked about the benefit the bill would have, if passed, for thousands of criminal aliens.
NumbersUSA takes no position on criminal justice reform in general. But in an era where criminal aliens roam freely with little to no chance of deportation, it puts millions of innocent Americans at risk from convicted criminal aliens who could be released early from prison to either commit another crime or take a job that could be held by an American worker.
Sen. Lee's leadership on criminal justice reform has many of his own supporters scratching their heads. But Lee rationalized his support for reform by placing it in the context of liberty.
"I believe that we ought to watch out any time we give the government extraordinary powers, especially powers that deprive the individual of liberty, and nowhere is the deprivation of liberty more severe, more intense, more long lasting than the deprivation of liberty that occurs when a person is locked up for years or for decades at a time, with no opportunity to progress, no opportunity to interact with family members, no opportunity to interact with the vibrant, growing economy," Sen Lee said.
He then told the story of Weldon Angelos. Angelos was sentenced to 55 years in prison after being arrested for selling small quantities of drugs while possessing a gun at the same time. Sen. Lee was making the point that the bill would dramatically reduce the prison sentence for someone who had committed a similar crime likely resulting in the immediate release from federal prison.
But Weldon Angelos' story reminds me of another story. This one is of Luis Enrique Monroy-Bracamonte who claimed to have lived in Sen. Lee's own home state of Utah. In 1998, Bracamonte was also arrested for selling drugs and gun possession. If Bracamonte received a prison sentence of 55 years, one could conclude that the Grassley-Durbin-Lee-Booker bill would also shorten his sentence and release him from prison.
But there's a major difference between Angelos' story and Bracamonte's -- Luis Enrique Monroy-Bracamonte is a twice deported illegal alien. The Grassley-Durbin-Lee-Booker bill makes no distinction between U.S. citizens and criminal aliens.
There's another important distinction between Angelos' story and Bracamonte's. After his several convictions and two deportations, Bracamonte then killed California Detective Michael Davis, Jr. and Sacramento County Deputy Sheriff Danny Oliver in October of 2014. For this reason, the union that represents Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents has publicly opposed the criminal justice reform bill. It's also been opposed by the National Association for Assistant U.S. Attorneys, National Narcotic Officers' Associations' Coalition, Federal Bureau of Investigation Agents Association, Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, National Sheriffs' Association, and Major County Sheriff's Association.
The Bureau of Prisons doesn't report on the immigration status of federal prison inmates. But they do report that 77% of all federal drug possession convictions and more than 25% of all federal drug trafficking convictions in FY2015 were of non-citizens. Moreover, the vast majority of these non-citizens are affiliated with drug cartels, gangs, or both. These convictions would likely result in removal orders for these non-citizens, regardless of their immigration status. But since the Obama Administration released 60% of the criminal aliens it came into contact with in FY2015, it's highly unlikely that any criminal alien released from federal prison early would be removed.
In fact, open-borders groups have already urged the Administration not to remove criminal aliens who have had their federal prison sentences cut short and been released onto the streets.
One of the bill's authors, Sen. Corey Booker said yesterday: "We have a point in America today where millions of children have had parents who are incarcerated."
Sadly, we're also reaching a point where we'll have hundreds of children with no parents and parents with no children because they've been killed by criminal aliens.
Sen. Lee talked about depriving citizens of their "liberty", but what about the liberty of Detective Davis and Deputy Sheriff Oliver? Or the liberty of Kate Steinle or Jamiel Shaw or Drew Rosenberg or Josh Wilkerson? The list goes on and on. And what about their "opportunity to progress" or "to interact with family members" or "to interact with the vibrant, growing economy"? It's all been stolen by the actions of criminal aliens who never should have been on our streets in the first place.
"[T]his proposal would provide for leniency for illegal alien drug traffickers," Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), one of the bills few vocal opponents, said back in May. "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 some in Congress now seek to roll back through this legislation."
There's been little discussion of Sen. Sessions' concerns, and they were ignored during yesterday's floor speeches.
There's a simple solution to our problem with the bill -- exclude criminal aliens from the reforms or include a provision that would require the immediate removal from the United States of any criminal alien released from prison.
Apparently, though, Republican sponsors of the bill believe that addressing criminal aliens will upset the Democrat sponsors and tear apart their fragile bipartisan coalition. Do these Democrats really support criminal aliens enough to walk away from criminal justice reform? Are these Republicans really willing to endanger Americans by releasing onto our streets criminal aliens who are likely affiliated with cartels and gangs? Apparently so.
The Senate begins its summer recess at the end of the week, so Sens. Grassley, Durbin, Lee, and Booker will have to continue to wait. But they all pushed for action when the Senate is back in session in September. The question will be whether Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell sides with a small bipartisan coalition of Senators willing to put thousands of criminal aliens back on American streets or with Americans who deserve to be safe in their communities.
CHRIS CHMIELENSKI is the Director of Content & Activism for NumbersUSA
Updated: Thu, Jul 28th 2016 @ 11:30am EDT