On Tuesday, the House Judiciary Committee began its review of the SAFE Act, a noxious, cynical measure that, if passed, would designate all undocumented immigrants as criminals for the first time and would allow states to enforce their own immigration laws as well as federal laws. If that sounds at all familiar it's because the bill is little more than a rewrite of Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner's punitive 2005 proposal that drove millions of people to march in the streets and ultimately helped doom efforts to overhaul the nation's broken immigration system.
Some Republicans, including Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), the chairman of the committee, argue that the SAFE Act is needed to provide stronger internal enforcement of immigration laws. But such arguments are little more than a cynical strategy intended to disguise the bill's real purpose, which is to derail the current legislative effort to reach a bipartisan agreement on a comprehensive immigration law.
Like the 2005 Sensenbrenner bill, the SAFE Act seeks to turn millions of immigrants into criminals overnight merely because they are unlawfully in the United States — and, in the case of suspected repeat offenders, into felons. Under current law, that is a civil offense.