Controversial immigration bill approved by House

US flagThe House Judiciary Committee has given its approval to a controversial new measure that enables local and state governments to come up with their own laws, as well as now making it a federal crime for illegal immigrants to live in the United States, the Washington Post says.

The Strengthen and Fortify Act – also referred to sometimes simply as the SAFE Act – means that it would be a crime for someone to remain in the US beyond the length of their visa and that the current statute of limitations on the prosecution of such crimes, which is currently five years, would be removed, which means that legal proceedings could commence at any point.

“It contemplates that there’s going to be a legal status for them,” claims Republican Bob Goodlatte.  “This is to deal with future enforcement of the law.  My understanding from the outset of this whole effort…  was that nothing was going to happen unless everything happened.  Our intention is to deal with all areas of immigration reform.”  Goodlatte claims that the intention of the measure is not to turn the approximately 11 million undocumented immigrants currently living in the United States into criminals, but to deter others from making illegal entry into the country.

Lawmakers who are against the measure, however, claim that it could end up causing the public more risk, potentially deterring eyewitnesses or victims of crime from coming forward while forcing police officers in cities to enforce expensive laws.