4:00 pm Nov. 23, 2011
On Monday afternoon, after about 20 minutes talking to Representative Jerrold Nadler about the failure of the joint deficit committee, he wanted to talk about something else.
"OK, let me tell you one other thing which you may find interesting, having nothing to do with any of this," Nadler said.
The other thing, as it turned out, was a piece of legislation called the Deport Convicted Foreign Criminals Act of 2011, or, as Nadler put it, "the most stupid bill I've ever seen."
The act, introduced by Republican congressman Ted Poe of Texas—and co-sponsored by Iowa congressman Steve King, and ten others—would deny visas to countries that refuse to accept convicted foreign nationals the United States is seeking to deport.
Currently, the Department of Homeland Security has the discretion to report offending nations to the secretary of state to deny visas. Under the proposed bill, nations would have 90 days to begin repatriating their convict-nationals, before they get put on a list. After nine months on the list, citizens of those countries would be denied certain visas, like those for students and exchange visitors; after 15 months, they would be denied visas for highly skilled professionals, entertainers, and the like; and after two years on the list, they would be denied all visas.
Nadler described it this way:
"Here's the problem. You get an immigrant, legal or illegal, doesn't matter. Commits a crime. Is convicted. Goes to jail. Gets out of jail. And now you want to deport him. OK? The country he comes from doesn't want to accept him, for some reason. So you can't deport him. This is frustrating. So what's the solution? The solution is this bill that say that any such country, of whom there are 141 that we know about so far in the world, which is to say everybody; no more visas."
In introducing the bill, Poe focused on a few of those 141.
"Now, who are these offending nations? Well, Cuba, Iran, Pakistan, and, yes, China. Our good buddies the Chinese are the second worst offenders, with 35,000 convicted criminals pending deportation," Poe said. "Imagine that—Chinese criminals in the United States. Who would have thought?"
Nadler focused on a more sympathetic group. "141 countries fit this bill," he said. "All our friends. Israel, Great Britain you name it."
A letter from the American Immigration Lawyers Association, imploring members not to pass the bill, listed 19 sympathetic offenders: Brazil, Canada, China, Colombia, France, Germany, India, Israel, Italy, South Korea, Mexico, Netherlands,Pakistan, Poland, Russia, Singapore, Spain, Ukraine, and the United Kingdom.
The AILA, quoting preliminary figures from the state department, said more than 7.5 million visas were issued in the last fiscal year, with international travel generating $134 billion dollars.
"Which means, there goes the entire tourist industry in the United States," Nadler said. "No tourist can get a visa. There goes all the foreign students—many of whom stay here and provide our scientists and engineers. You want to adopt a baby from China or any place else? Forget it. We can't get the baby a visa. It's stupid beyond belief. It's a real problem."
The bill was introduced on October 25 of this year, and according to the Library of Congress' online bill tracker, was referred to the Subcommittee on Immigration and Policy Enforcement on November 2.
Nadler said it was "absurd."
"There've got to be solutions, this isn't it. I said during the debate, I said, 'You know when I was a child, my mother said don't bite your nose to spite your face.' Classic."