Ranking Member Nadler Floor Statement in Opposition to H.R. 6691, the so-called “Community Safety and Security Act”

Sep 7, 2018 Issues: Criminal Justice, Civil Liberties

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Today, Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), Ranking Member of the House Judiciary Committee, delivered the following remarks on the House floor in opposition to H.R. 6691, the so-called “Community Safety and Security Act”: 

“I must oppose H.R. 6691, the so-called ‘Community Safety and Security Act.’  This highly flawed bill is an example of why regular order and a meaningful deliberative process is essential to the crafting of legislation.

“Last April, the Supreme Court, in Sessions v. Dimaya, ruled that a portion of the criminal code’s definition of “crime of violence” is unconstitutionally vague.  That was nearly six months ago.  The Judiciary Committee has had ample time to examine the decision, to hold hearings, to gather input from a range of stakeholders, and to carefully develop legislation through a markup and regular order.  But, none of those things have happened.

“Instead, a bill with significant ramifications for criminal law and immigration cases was introduced just last week—while Members were out of town—and is being rushed to the floor today without any adequate opportunity for review by the public, by legal experts, or by stakeholders.

“So, it is not a surprise that we are left with many unanswered questions and concerns about the impact of this bill.

“The term ‘crime of violence’ is referred to throughout the criminal code, and is, for example, used to determine whether a juvenile may be prosecuted as an adult in federal court.  It also has serious implications in immigration law because a non-citizen convicted of an “aggravated felony,” defined under the Immigration and Nationality Act to include a “crime of violence” under this section, is deportable, and would be denied the opportunity for certain discretionary relief from removal.

“If we do not define this term properly, it could have significant adverse consequences.  H.R. 6691 specifies a long list of offenses that would be considered crimes of violence, some of which are not currently included in the Federal Criminal Code.  And the bill further defines some of the offenses that are in the Code, adding layers of confusion to the bill.  We should carefully examine all of these offenses to determine which are appropriate to be included in this definition, and we should consider what the consequences will be for each one.

“In writing for the majority in Dimaya, Justice Kagan noted that ‘a host of issues respecting [the definition of ‘crime of violence’] application to specific crimes divide the federal appellate courts.’  Although Congress has the power to clarify the definition, or to establish a new one, as this bill would do, it is absolutely essential that we carefully consider what offenses should be included.

“Indeed, in considering a change to the definition of ‘crime of violence’ for purposes of the Sentencing Guidelines, the U.S. Sentencing Commission held a hearing and received testimony.  It also sought public comments in response to proposed revisions.

“At a minimum, we should do the same.

“Finally, I note that – even in the brief time since the bill has been introduced – a broad array of advocates have expressed opposition to H.R. 6691, including:

The American Civil Liberties Union,
Families Against Mandatory Minimums,
Asian Americans Advancing Justice,
The Immigrant Justice Network,
The Immigrant Defense Project,
The Immigrant Legal Resource Center,
The National Immigrant Justice Center,
The National Immigrant Project,
The National Center for Lesbian Rights, and
The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.

“Such opposition should at the very least tell us that we should not be considering this legislation without thoughtful deliberation. 

“For these reasons, I oppose passage of this bill, and I ask that we take the time to examine this issue through regular order. 

“Thank you.  I yield back the balance of my time.”

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