Washington, D.C. – House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) today delivered the following remarks on the House floor in support of the Criminal Alien Gang Member Removal Act (H.R. 3697).

Chairman Goodlatte: Mr. Speaker, I thank the Gentleman from Idaho for yielding.

I rise today in strong support of H.R. 3697, the Criminal Alien Gang Member Removal Act. Transnational criminal gangs have declared war on the United States.  Their tactics of intimidation and unspeakable mutilation and killing have permeated most every part of our country, including multiple instances in my own district. Most recently in Bedford County, Virginia a young man was killed by alien members of MS-13.

The Department of Homeland Security reports an ever-growing number of criminal aliens joining international gangs, such as MS-13, which alone has over 10,000 members within our borders.  Whether these criminals came to this country illegally as unaccompanied minors, adults, or have valid visas or green cards, it is time to send the message that this behavior will simply not be tolerated.

Yet current immigration law includes no provision allowing for the removal of criminal gang members based on their membership in dangerous gangs or participation in gang activities.  The result is unconscionable. ICE must sit on the sidelines and wait for known gang members to be arrested and convicted of specific offenses before removal proceedings may commence.  Of course, with many victims and witnesses too petrified of retaliation against them and their families to cooperate with police, many gang members are never convicted of their crimes.

This legislation provides a crucial tool so that ICE can seek to remove alien gang members before they are able to extort businesses and murder innocent Americans.

In addition, this bill allows the Secretary of Homeland Security to designate organizations as criminal gangs utilizing the same transparent procedures used by the Secretary of State to designate foreign terrorist organizations.  Finally, the bill ensures that criminal alien gang members cannot receive asylum and be released back onto our streets, able to resume their criminal activities while being eligible for a vast array of federal benefits.

Eradicating the death-grip that transnational criminal alien gangs hold over many of our communities, especially immigrant communities, is an important piece of immigration reform.  I am pleased that this bill, which stems from legislation that the House has approved in the past and which has been approved by the Judiciary Committee in multiple Congresses, is being considered today.

I want to thank the bill’s sponsors, Representative Barbara Comstock, Representative Peter King, and the Chairman of our Immigration and Border Security Subcommittee, Representative Raul Labrador, for their work on this important bill.

I urge my colleagues to support H.R. 3697 and I yield back the balance of my time.