Rep. Diane Black (R-TN) introduced a bill Tuesday which would make a first-time illegal border crossing a felony rather than a misdemeanor. Speaking with Townhall, Rep. Black explained how this change, along with others, creates simple disincentives against coming to the United States illegally.
Black explained the two, main features of her Zero Tolerance for Illegal Entry Act.
First, the bill would make first-time illegal border crossings a felony with a prison sentence of one year and one day. First-time illegal border crossings are currently misdemeanors with a prison sentence of six months or less.
“Now the important thing about that,” Black explained, “is that if they were to try to come back to the United States at another point in time through a legal means, they would either not be accepted or it would be very difficult for them to come into the United States so it’s a real deterrent.”
She said that border patrol agents in Brownsville, Texas told her some problems with the current practice of making the first-time illegal border crossing a misdemeanor and repeat crossings after deportation a felony.
“I had the border patrol agents tell me that people had come over the border one day and they’ll turn around and send them back and the next day they’ll come with a new name and they know it’s the same person,” she said.
She said her bill creates an excellent deterrent to this since “if you try to come back at another point in time with a felony, you’re not going to get a green card and this is the message that it sends: look if you really want to come into the United States go through the process and do it the right way.”
Another important feature of Black’s bill is that it mandates e-verify for employers.
“People come to the country because they want to get work,” she emphasized. “They want to come from whatever bad situations in their countries which we all understand but we encourage them to do that by the legal means.”
She said that mandating e-verify forces employers to hire “eligible and legal employees” and also discourages people from coming into the country illegally as they wouldn’t “have a chance to even have work and if they’re coming here because of the lack of economic opportunities in their country obviously they want to be able to have work.”
Additionally, Black’s bill would redirect funding from sanctuary cities to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
Despite widespread Democratic opposition to such measures and their contentious nature even among Republicans, Black is hoping for some bipartisan support, arguing that her bill is “a common-sense thing.”
“Other countries are very strict about having you in their country legally and there’s no reason why we shouldn’t be the same,” she emphasized, arguing that these measures are simple incentives to discourage illegal immigration.
Immigration is an important issue for Black, who is running for governor of Tennessee. Earlier this year, she introduced legislation to crowdfund the border wall.