Republicans' “Callous and Irrational” Bill Treats All Non-Violent, Undocumented Immigrants as Violent, Dangerous Criminals

Jun 29, 2017 Issues: Civil Rights

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Today, Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), senior Member of the House Judiciary Committee, delivered the following floor statement in opposition to H.R. 3004, “Kate’s Law,” which would dramatically expand the penalties for illegal reentry into the United States, even for people who have committed minor and non-violent offenses. In his remarks against the legislation, Rep. Nadler cited the story of  Carlos Cardona, an undocumented immigrant who volunteered as a recovery worker after 9-11 at Ground Zero and was recently detained after a routine appointment with ICE and placed in deportation proceedings before being released following a major public campaign.

Below are Congressman Nadler's full remarks, as prepared:

"Mr. Speaker, I rise in opposition to this bill.  This draconian legislation would dramatically expand the penalties for illegal reentry into the United States, even for people who have committed minor and non-violent offenses.  Although most people who illegally reenter the country do so to reunite with their families, or to flee violence or persecution, this bill considers them all dangerous criminals who deserve lengthy prison sentences.   This bill is nothing more than fear-mongering, based on the widely debunked myth that immigrants commit crimes at a higher rate than native-born Americans.  In fact, it is just the opposite.

"Let me tell you about one of these supposed dangerous criminals, who was mercifully released from ICE custody just yesterday, after four months in detention.

"In 1986, 17-year-old Carlos Cardona illegally entered the United States, having fled threats of violence in his native Colombia.  At age 21, he made a foolish mistake and committed a non-violent drug offense.  He served 45 days in prison, and ever since then, for the last 27 years, he has lived a crime-free, and a productive life as an active member of his community in Queens, New York.  Not only that, after the September 11th attacks, he volunteered as a recovery worker at Ground Zero.  Like so many other workers there, due to his sacrifice, he developed acute respiratory issues, and other illnesses that have put his life in jeopardy.

"Unfortunately, although he is married to an American citizen, he was unable to adjust his immigration status because of his decades-old conviction.  However, he was allowed to stay in the country in recognition of his service after 9/11, as long as he checked in periodically with immigration authorities.

"But shortly after President Trump took office, Mr. Cardona was detained after appearing for a routine appointment with ICE, and he was placed in deportation proceedings.  It was only thanks to a major public campaign, and the compassion of Governor Cuomo, who pardoned his drug conviction, that he was released.

"Under this legislation, had Mr. Cardona been deported and then illegally reentered the country to see his wife and daughter, he would face up to ten years in prison because of his prior conviction.  Even if he presented himself to border agents and he sought asylum—on the reasonable basis that two of his brothers back in Colombia were murdered—he would still be subject to prosecution and massive penalties, just for appearing at the border.

"That is both callous and irrational.  This bill would dramatically expand the mass incarceration of immigrants, even for those with minor offenses, and those who simply seek refuge in our country.  I urge my colleagues to oppose this cruel legislation, and I yield back the balance of my time."