- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 26, 2023

The new House Republican majority had planned to quickly pass legislation to halt the flow of illegal immigration along the southern border and to crack down on crime by holding liberal prosecutors accountable for releasing criminals back out on the streets. 

But internal divisions in the GOP’s minuscule majority have slowed down their legislative agenda as lawmakers debate the best way to address the border crisis and how far to push local prosecutors amid fears over rising crime. 

A crime bill that was labeled by House Majority Leader Steve Scalise as “ready to go” legislation hit a roadblock when some Republicans withdrew their support out of concern the measure could infringe on states’ rights.

The bill, led by New York Rep. Nicole Malliotakis, would require district attorneys to report crime metrics to the Justice Department, including the number of cases they declined to prosecute for certain crimes.

It’s aimed at liberal district attorneys who have implemented bail reform, lessened penalties for certain crimes and taken other actions that many Republicans see as soft on crime.

GOP Reps. Andy Biggs of Arizona and Victoria Spartz of Indiana are among a small group of GOP lawmakers who oppose the bill out of concern that it would step on local autonomy. 

Although only a few Republicans have expressed opposition to the crime bill, the GOP’s small majority means just a handful of Republicans can sink it because Democrats won’t provide any votes to help pass it. The GOP controls the House by five votes and will be missing Republican Rep. Greg Steube, of Florida, for several weeks while he recovers from falling off a ladder.

The small majority has left the GOP without an immediate path forward on a border security bill, despite pledging in their 2022 campaign to quickly pass legislation that would stop the influx of illegal immigration across the southern border.

Republicans made securing the border a key promise in their legislative agenda after blaming the Biden administration for unprecedented chaos at the southern border with 2.4 million illegal immigrants encountered in fiscal year 2022.

Rep. Chip Roy, a Texas Republican, introduced a bill that would allow the homeland security secretary to bar all illegal migrants from entering the country until “operational control” of the border is established.

The legislation, which has 58 co-sponsors, was poised for a vote this week, but opposition from some Republicans has put it in limbo.

Rep. Don Bacon, a Nebraska Republican who leads the moderate Main Street Caucus, said Mr. Roy’s measure could hurt efforts by the GOP to court Hispanic voters.

Rep. Tony Gonzales, whose Texas district is on the southern border, is among the Republicans who fear the bill would make it harder for legitimate asylum seekers to gain entry into the country.

“Trying to ban legitimate asylum claims — one, it’s not Christian, and two, to me, it’s very anti-American,” Mr. Gonzales told The Washington Post. “So, a lot is at stake.”

Mr. Roy rejected the claim that his bill would block real asylum seekers. It would allow asylum seekers into the country but they would have to remain in detention until their claim is decided by a judge, he said.

“Just to be very clear, the bill does nothing to change asylum. Nothing. Asylum law remains exactly in place,” Mr. Roy told The Washington Times. “The only thing it does is say that you must be detained for the dependency of your claim, which by the way, is what the current law contemplates.”

Mr. Roy lambasted Mr. Gonzales for saying the legislation was “not Christian,” pointing out that current border policies have led to dangerous human trafficking. 

“It is un-Christian, it is not right, to allow little girls to get sold into the sex trafficking trade and get raped in stash houses,” Mr. Roy told Fox News. “I’m tired of Republicans using rhetoric that is actually not addressing the problem of the people getting abused. That is what’s happening now.”

The lawmaker said the bill has widespread support from the conference and they’re having discussions about the plan moving forward.

• Mica Soellner can be reached at msoellner@washingtontimes.com.

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