Washington, DC – A Republican congresswoman has proposed a bill in the U.S. House of Representatives that would make illegally entering the United States a felony, instead of the current misdemeanor.
“The United States government should never prioritize illegal immigrants over American citizens,” U.S. Representative Diane Black (R – Tennessee) said in a statement.
“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,” she added.
The possibility of being charged with a felony should be “disincentive” for an individual hoping to eventually gain legal residence in the United States because a felony record would prevent them from getting a green card, Black told FOX News.
Right now, the crime of crossing into the United States illegally is a misdemeanor that carries a maximum penalty of six months in jail, which many immigration opponents have said is much too lenient.
“We are a compassionate nation and we are a country filled with compassionate people. I’ve been abroad and I’ve seen the hardships that people go through, but we’ve got to have some kind of control and order,” she said.
Black’s proposed bill, which has been dubbed the “Zero Tolerance for Illegal Entry Act,” also mandates that all employers must use the E-Verify system to confirm their employees are in the United States legally, and have permission to work, FOX News reported.
If passed, the bill would also take funding for self-proclaimed “sanctuary cities” and give it to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
“It’s so simple,” Black said. “It just takes some of the [issues] we’ve talked about for years and puts it all in one bill.”
Black, who has served in Congress since 2011, is currently running for Tennessee governor, and has pledged to cut off all funding to sanctuary cities. She made it a point to say that ICE was welcome in Tennessee.
“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,” Black told WZTV.
Black has been a vocal supporter of President Donald Trump’s immigration policy and was also the author of the Border Wall Trust Fund Act, which is proposed legislation that would allow the Treasury Department to accept donations to help build the wall between the United States and Mexico, WZTV reported.