Wednesday, September 14, 2005

U.S. Rep. J. Randy Forbes said gang-related violence, such as the 2002 rapes of two deaf teenagers by MS-13 members, has spurred him to combat such activity with legislation that would crack down on immigrants involved in criminal gangs.

“We heard of kids coming home from school and they can’t even go outside; they have to stay hunkered down because of the gang activity out there,” the Virginia Republican said. “As we saw that we realized we had to do something or it was going to be totally out of control.”

Mr. Forbes has introduced a bill that would allow the government to deport aliens and immigrants who are not permanent residents of the United States and belong to criminal gangs.

He said hearing about the gang-rape of the two girls — one of whom was wheelchair-bound and suffering from cerebral palsy — in a Boston park by up to six youths three years ago pushed him to introduce the legislation.

“The country’s thrust up to this point in fighting gang activity is wait until they kill somebody, hurt somebody or rape somebody and then go after them,” he said. “We just don’t find that” working.

Mr. Forbes’ Alien Gang Removal Act comes on the heels of his Gang Deterrence and Community Protection Act, which calls for defining gang crime in federal code and specifies punishments for gang-related crimes. The first bill passed the House in May and is before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

The Alien Gang Removal Act — which is before the House Judiciary subcommittee on immigration, border security and claims — would list gangs in a federal registry if they commit two violent crimes. If an alien is found to be a member of such a gang, he or she would be subject to deportation.

The bill would require that aliens arrested on gang-activity charges to be held in detention before their immigration hearing to assure that they appear in court. Officials also would be required to ask foreigners upon entering the country whether they belong to a gang.

Mr. Forbes said another key aim of the legislation is to allow authorities to go after gang members who fall under temporary protected status, which establishes a legislative basis for allowing a group of people temporary refuge in the United States.

Removal proceedings are suspended against aliens while they are under temporary protected status.

Michael M. Hethmon, a lawyer with the Federation for American Immigration Reform, said that if it passes, the act would give greater authority and jurisdiction to officials trying to crack down on gang violence.

Immigration officials are “making a big deal out of focusing on using existing methods to try and identify and detain these individuals,” Mr. Hethmon said. “There’s a strong consensus across the board that this is a serious problem.”

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