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House passes bill to deport immigrants who assault police

Democrats raised concerns the measure would result in unwarranted deportations

Rep. Andrew Garbarino, R-N.Y., sponsored the bill on police assaults that the House passed Wednesday.
Rep. Andrew Garbarino, R-N.Y., sponsored the bill on police assaults that the House passed Wednesday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

The House passed legislation Wednesday evening that would make it easier to deport immigrants who assault law enforcement officers, despite protests from Democrats who said the legislation could lead to unwarranted deportations.

The House voted 255-175 to pass the bill, which would make it a deportable offense to assault an officer, including police, firefighters and other first responders. The measure drew unanimous support from Republicans who voted, as well as from 36 Democrats.

The legislation would not be limited to immigrants convicted of assaulting an officer, but would also sweep in any immigrant who admits they assaulted or were involved in the assault of a law enforcement officer.

The Republican-led bill is less likely to gain traction in the Democrat-controlled Senate.

Speaking on the House floor ahead of the vote, New York Republican Rep. Andrew Garbarino, who introduced the legislation, said his bill would codify and clarify an “ambiguous” issue in current law.

“This is about improving officer safety and making it easier to remove migrants who have demonstrated flagrant criminal violence while on U.S. soil,” Garbarino said.

House Democrats, however, slammed the bill as overly broad.

New York Rep. Jerrold Nadler, the top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, argued on the House floor Wednesday that the bill could lead to the deportation of U.S. permanent residents who accidentally or unknowingly strike an officer, such as during a medical emergency and when breaking up a fight involving an undercover officer.

He also noted that assaulting a law enforcement officer is “largely already a deportable offense.”

If this bill “closed an actual gap in current law and made our country safer, Democrats would gladly support it,” Nadler said. “Unfortunately, this bill represents another unserious attempt by my Republican colleagues to target and scapegoat immigrants, and to score cheap political points.”

California Rep. Lou Correa, the top Democrat on the House Homeland Security Committee’s border panel, said the bill is so broad “that people could be deported for actions that they are merely accused of.”

The House voted to reject an amendment 209-225 from Correa that would require a criminal conviction before a legal immigrant could face deportation under the bill.

“My amendment is simple. It asks for due process under the law,” Correa said.

The Biden administration raised similar concerns in a Wednesday statement of administration policy, though stopped short of threatening to veto the bill.

The statement says that while the administration “believes that anyone who assaults a law enforcement officer should be punished appropriately,” it is concerned the bill, as drafted, “could potentially sweep up even non-violent or unintentional conduct, resulting in deportation of even long-term lawful permanent residents with otherwise unblemished records.”

Republicans opposed Correa’s amendment. Garbarino said while he understood the idea behind the amendment, he refused to limit the bill’s scope because of “progressive, woke district attorneys” who do not prosecute assaults against officers.

“We can’t be left to require convictions on something like this when the district attorneys in certain areas are not doing their jobs,” Garbarino said.

The Wednesday vote came during National Police Week, when thousands of officers across the country travel to Washington, D.C., for planned events honoring law enforcement.

The House also passed a bill 232-198 Wednesday that would allow federal law enforcement officers to purchase their own retired service weapons.

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