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Local groups say proposed felony immigration bill would worsen situation at U.S. border

Lawmakers have yet to come up with a solution to the immigration crisis, but Tennessee Congressman Diane Black is sponsoring a bill to make illegal entry into the county a first-degree felony.

Currently, illegally crossing into the United States is a misdemeanor, which carries up to a six-month sentence. Black’s bill would make the minimum sentence one year and one day.

It would also mandate a system to verify employees, and would take funding from sanctuary cities and re-direct it toward Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE.

Congressman Black’s office released the following statement today:

“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 and sanctuary cities, and we must give ICE the resources they need to do their job as they protect our nation. By no longer creating incentives to come to our country unlawfully, we also discourage families from sending their children on an often dangerous journey to reach our southern border.”

“The Zero Tolerance for Illegal Entry Act works hand in hand with law enforcement to ensure that we are doing all we can to uphold the dignity of our border. President Trump has been clear about illegal immigration from day one, and we know that he is committed to protecting our nation for future generations. We must do all we can to deter the criminal abuse of our border – it has gone on for far too long.”

This statement comes as controversy over immigration reform continues.

Several local nonprofits supporting immigrants said Black’s bill would only make the immigration crisis worse.

“Congress does have a job to do to repair and update our outdated immigration laws, but doubling down on the sentences and the harshness of our broken laws is not the answer,” Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition Co-Director Stephanie Teatro said. “That’s not leadership, that’s not the solution that our country needs.”

Teatro said this bill would fall short of solving problems at the border.

“Tennesseans don’t want to see families ripped apart,” Teatro said. “They don’t want to see people who are fleeing incredible violence thrown into jails and treated with such cruelty, so it really makes no sense to us why congressman Black would turn around and introduce a bill that would just make it worse.”

Conexion Americas Director of Communications Andres Martinez said families should not be punished for trying to find a better life in the United States.

“Immigrants here are growing more and more concerned and even scared because if politicians keep proposing policies like this, we don’t know at what point they’ll stop,” Martinez said.

Black has been a vocal supporter of the Trump administration and his policy on immigration. She recently introduced the “Border Wall Trust Fund Act” which would allow the Treasury Department to accept public donation to fund a wall on the Mexico border.

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