By Sarah Guy, Manager, Legislative and Media Affairs, IACP
.S. House of Representative’s (House) Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) has ruled out any action in the House on immigration reform in 2013. This means the House will not consider the Senate-passed immigration reform bill (S. 744) or the House Democrat’s immigration reform bill (H.R. 15).
Speaker Boehner’s announcement came as no surprise, as he had repeatedly stated that he would not vote on any immigration overhaul bill or a conference report unless it had the support of the majority of the Republican Conference.
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) is writing a list of principles intended to guide the Republican Party on how to enact immigration reform. These principles will likely provide a framework for further discussions in the House in 2014.
At the 120th Annual IACP Conference and Expo in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the IACP passed a resolution urging elected officials to recognize and address the needs and concerns of the law enforcement community as they deliberate on changes to U.S. immigration policies. As the immigration reform debate resumes in 2014, the IACP will continue to work to make sure that the law enforcement community’s needs are adequately reflected in any legislation.
Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act
On November 19, 2013, Senators John Cornyn (R-TX), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Mark Kirk (R-IL), and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) along with Representatives Ted Poe (R-TX) Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), Rick Nolan (D-MN), Kay Granger (R-TX), and Candice Miller (R-MI), introduced bicameral and bipartisan domestic anti-trafficking legislation—the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act, S. 1738 and H.R. 3530.
The Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act strengthens the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) by adding the words “obtaining, patronizing, or soliciting” to the sex trafficking statute, making it absolutely clear that criminals who solicit, obtain, or purchase sexual acts from trafficking victims can and should be arrested, prosecuted, and convicted as sex trafficking ofenders.
In addition to strengthening TVPA, the new bill would also increase the maximum penalties for human trafficking–related offenses and reduce affirmative defenses for persons who exploit children through interstate prostitution by requiring them to show clear and convincing evidence, rather than a preponderance of evidence, that they believed the child to be an adult. Increasing penalties and providing law enforcement with the tools they need to punish those who solicit or patronize sexual acts from trafficking victims send a strong message that these crimes will not be ignored and that all parties will be held responsible.
This proposed legislation also guarantees that funding is made available for victims’ support programs for victims of human trafficking and child pornography. Resources for victim support would be available through the establishment of a “Domestic Trafficking Victims’ Fund” within the U.S. Department of the Treasury financed by fines on persons convicted of child pornography, human trafficking, child prostitution, sexual exploitation, and human smuggling offenses.
The Domestic Trafficking Victim’s Fund would also fund the creation of a block grant program to help states and local governments develop and implement comprehensive victim-centered programs to train law enforcement to rescue victims, prosecute human traffickers, and restore the quality of life of victims.
The IACP has submitted a letter of support for this legislation to the bill sponsors.
Saving Kids From Dangerous Drugs Act of 2013
On November 12, 2013, Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Chuck Grassley (R-IA) introduced the Saving Kids From Dangerous Drugs Act of 2013, S. 1686. This legislation would provide stronger penalties for drug dealers who intentionally manufacture, create, or market a controlled substance by combining them with beverages or candy products, package them to resemble legitimate products, or flavor and/or color them with the intent to sell them to minors.
The IACP has submitted a letter of endorsement to the bill’s sponsors. S. 1686 is currently pending before the Senate Committee on the Judiciary.
Protecting Our Youth from Dangerous Synthetic Drugs Act of 2013
The IACP has endorsed the Protecting Our Youth from Dangerous Synthetic Drugs Act of 2013, S. 1323. This bill would grant the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) the ability to establish a Controlled Substance Analogue Committee, composed of chemists and pharmacologists, to create and maintain an administrative list of controlled substance analogues with legal effect, increasing law enforcement’s ability to prosecute individuals who produce or distribute synthetic drugs. S. 1323 would also enhance the government’s ability to quickly identify synthetic substances prior to them becoming a threat to public health.
S. 1323 would preclude any substance designated as a controlled substance analogue by the committee from being imported into the United States unless done pursuant to a process outlined by the attorney general.
Also included in the legislation is a directive that the U.S. Sentencing Commission review and, if necessary, amend the federal sentencing guidelines to provide adequate penalties for those who commit any violation involving synthetic drugs.
The Protecting Our Youth from Dangerous Synthetic Drugs Act of 2013 is currently pending before the Senate Committee on the Judiciary.
Synthetic Abuse and Labeling of Toxic Substances (SALTS) Act of 2013
The IACP recently endorsed the Synthetic Abuse and Labeling of Toxic Substances (SALTS) Act of 2013, S. 1322. The bill, introduced by Senators Klobuchar (D-MN), Feinstein (D-CA), and Lindsey Graham (R-SC), would amend the Controlled Substances Act to require consideration of a number of factors when determining whether a controlled substance analogue was intended for human consumption. Those factors include the marketing, advertising, and labeling of a substance and its known use. The bill takes into account the difference between the price at which the substance is sold and the price at which the substance it is purported to be or advertised as is normally sold.
This legislation also states that evidence that a substance was not marketed, advertised, or labeled for human consumption, by itself, is not sufficient to establish that the substance was not intended for human consumption.
The SALTS Act will make it easier for the law enforcement community to prove that synthetic drugs are intended for human consumption and thus easier to prosecute those who distribute them. The bill is currently pending before the Senate Committee on the Judiciary.
Youth Prison Reduction through Opportunities, Mentoring, Intervention, Support, and Education Act
The IACP has submitted a letter of support to Senators Mary Landrieu (D-LA) and James Inhofe (R-OK) for the Youth Prison Reduction through Opportunities, Mentoring, Intervention, Support, and Education (PROMISE) Act, S. 1307.
The Youth PROMISE Act focuses on the implementation of evidence-based, locally controlled youth and gang violence prevention and intervention practices and programs to help reduce and target youth violence and delinquency. This legislation would direct resources towards communities facing an increased risk of crime and gang activity so they could implement the best approach and strategy possible to prevent youth crime and violence from occurring. Law enforcement would have a direct role in addressing the community needs through the creation of the PROMISE Coordinating Councils, which would also encourage stakeholder collaboration by bringing together law enforcement, educators, health and mental health providers, parents, kids, and non-profit groups.
The Youth PROMISE Act is currently pending before the Senate Committee on the Judiciary.
IACP Submits Joint Amicus Brief on U.S. v. Castleman
The IACP joined the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, Major Cities Chiefs Association, and the Association of Prosecuting Attorneys in submitting an amicus brief on the U.S. v. Castleman case.
The U.S. Supreme Court will be deciding in U.S. v. Castleman whether the crime prohibited by a Tennessee statute criminalizing domestic violence falls within the federal definition of a “misdemeanor crime of violence,” and if a person convicted under the Tennessee law is therefore banned from possessing firearms under the federal prohibition on domestic abusers in possession. Specifically, the case will examine whether an element of “violence” in a domestic violence conviction is necessary to trigger application of the domestic violence gun ban.
Should the defendant succeed in the case, the status of the federal domestic violence gun ban will be highly uncertain, and gun rights could be restored to certain types of domestic abusers. The joint brief supports the United States in arguing that domestic violence offenses that require any degree of force disqualify the perpetrator from owning firearms under the federal law. ♦
Please cite as:
Sarah Guy, “Boehner Rules out Action on Immigration Reform in 2013 and IACP Endorses Several Important Legislative Proposals,” Legislative Alert, The Police Chief 80 (December 2013): 8–9.