OPINION: This article may contain commentary which reflects the author’s opinion.
The House has passed bipartisan legislation that would impose stiff penalties on illegal migrants and smugglers who try to evade U.S. Border Patrol and Customs agents.
Criminal cartels involved in the cross-border drug trade have made substantial investments in illicitly smuggling foreign nationals who aspire to live in the United States across the southern border. The cartels employ individuals referred to as “coyotes,” who frequently guide migrants into the country’s interior, resulting in U.S. Border Patrol (USBP) pursuing them.
On Tuesday, the House passed a bill aimed at addressing the illicit activity, which has previously led to injuries and fatalities among USBP agents, the Daily Caller reported.
The bill received approval with a vote tally of 271 in favor (yeas) to 154 against (nays), with significant support from Democrats. It was primarily championed by GOP Rep. Juan Ciscomani of Arizona, whose district encompasses a section of the international border with Mexico. The bill is named the “Agent Raul Gonzalez Officer Safety Act” in honor of a USBP agent who tragically lost his life in the line of duty in 2022 while pursuing migrants on an all-terrain vehicle (ATV).
NEW: Absolutely wild footage from a @TxDPS trooper’s bodycam following a fiery human smuggler pursuit crash near Laredo. It shows TX troopers and Border Patrol agents saving the life of a woman who was zipped up in a duffel bag being smuggled inside the burning car. @FoxNews pic.twitter.com/OZmAlz0xnj
— Bill Melugin (@BillMelugin_) March 31, 2022
“My district sees high-speed car chases coming through our communities every day, putting both the lives of Arizonans and Border Patrol agents in jeopardy,” Ciscomani noted in a press release in September of 2023 regarding the legislation. “We must send a signal to any bad actors illegally coming through the southern border that their actions have dire consequences.”
The legislation establishes a fresh federal criminal offense for the deliberate act of evading USBP agents within 100 miles of the international border. Violators could face imprisonment for a maximum of two years. In cases where the act of fleeing leads to serious bodily injury or death, the penalties escalate to a maximum of 20 years or life in prison, respectively.
Furthermore, the legislation would prohibit individuals convicted under the newly established law, who are themselves unlawfully present in the United States, from obtaining any legal status in the future, including asylum status, the Daily Caller added.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) said of the bill: “Traffickers are killing people by loading up a car or truck stacked with illegal immigrants and then engaging in high-speed chases with Border Patrol or local police. These high-speed chases often end in tragedy, with people being killed regularly after the traffickers crash and passengers are thrown across the highway. Equally tragic are those innocent Americans who are struck by an illegal alien fleeing police or Border Patrol.”
According to Ciscomani’s official website, the bill garnered support from numerous law enforcement agencies operating in border areas. It also received endorsements from the National Border Patrol Council and the National Sheriffs’ Association.
In the Senate, a bipartisan coalition of senators is presently engaged in negotiations to establish border security measures as part of an agreement to provide financial assistance to Ukraine during its war with Russia. Although the details of the deal have not been officially disclosed, leaked provisions of the agreement have faced substantial criticism from both congressional Republicans and some Democrats.
“We must ensure that there are meaningful consequences in place for any illegal migrant who threatens the safety of our communities and lives of our citizens,” wrote the office of House Majority Leader Steve Scalise in a statement to the Daily Caller.
In recent months, national polls have consistently found that immigration enforcement and border security are among the top — if not the top — concerns for voters heading into the 2024 election.
In December, CNN host Dana Bash presided over the panel as they discussed a recent poll by Monmouth University that found Biden to have 28% support on the issue of inflation and 26% support on the issue of immigration.
“You look at the issues and how he fairs: infrastructure, jobs, climate change, inflation, immigration—he is now 26%. That is not good,” Bash told the panel.