WASHINGTON (WISH) – Crossing the U.S. border illegally is currently a misdemeanor for a first-time offender.
But, U.S. Rep. Diane Black, a Republican from Tennessee, wants to change that. She said the bill to change that would take away any incentive to enter the United States illegally.
The bill means tougher penalties for people who illegally cross the border. The maximum prison sentence would double from six months to a year.
In a statement, Black said:
“The United States government should never prioritize illegal immigrants over American citizens. We must have a zero tolerance policy when it comes to illegal border crossings.”
The bill also mandates that employers use the E-verify system to make sure employees are legally allowed to work. The measure also would take federal funding away from so-called “sanctuary cities” that refuse to hold illegal immigrants in local jails. Instead, the money would go to Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Doris Meissner with the Immigration Policy Institute said, “This does strike me as more of a political statement.”
Black is running for Tennessee governor in a hotly contested Republican primary with businessman Randy Boyd, state Speaker of the House Beth Harwell and businessman Bill Lee.
Her immigration bill faces long odds of becoming law before she leaves Congress. But, political experts say, it could help her campaign for governor.
Gary Nordlinger of George Washington University said, “It’s going to play well in a Republican primary, you bet.”
If the bill were to become law, there is concern tougher penalties could further burden already stressed immigrants.
Meissner said, “That means they’re doing less drug prosecutions less, less smuggling prosecutions, less of other serious crimes.”
But, Rep. Black insisted, the bill is about protecting the border, saying abuse “has gone on for far too long.”