Border crisis: GOP senator introduces bill allowing local police to enforce immigration laws

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EXCLUSIVE: Sen. Tommy Tuberville, a first-term Republican senator from Alabama, is introducing a bill to give state and local law enforcement more jurisdiction over illegal immigration cases, as the crisis at the southern border continues to escalate.

Tuberville spoke with Fox News on Tuesday about his Empowering Law Enforcement Act, which he is introducing with fellow GOP Sens. Thom Tillis, S.C., and Mike Rounds, S.D. He said the bill is needed because the Biden administration is targeting Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and looking to “close them down or really, really cut their power.”

“Our local police across the country, as we speak, they don’t have, really, any authority with illegal immigration,” Tuberville told Fox News. “And we need to find some way to be able to give our local law enforcement all across the country the ability to arrest, to identify, and then have some way to have jurisdiction over people who are not citizens of our country.”

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The Alabama senator and former head football coach for Auburn University also noted that many of his senatorial colleagues are “on board” with the legislation.

“We’ve got to find a way to help the American people, and I think this giving authority to a law enforcement officer who really has some kind of say about illegal immigration in their community I think is huge,” Tuberville said.

Tuberville told Fox News that the catalyst for the bill was the growing number of migrants coming across the southern border and the pressure they are putting on the immigration system.

“It looks like we’re going to have somewhere between a million and two million [illegal immigrants] if we keep going this direction for the rest of the year. That’s just this year alone,” the senator said. “They’re going everywhere.”

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The Alabama Republican said the nation needs to be able to “deputize” local and state law enforcement to “take the place of ICE” as the Biden administration looks to curb ICE’s power.

“Right now ICE has got their hands tied. President Biden is pulling them back everyday in terms of having any kind of authority with illegal immigration, with people in the communities,” he said. “… It gives full authority to local policemen, sheriffs, city police, which, right now, they don’t have the authority of what I said.”

“We’re going to have total chaos across our country if we don’t have some kind of law enforcement with these one to two million illegals that are coming in this year,” Tuberville said, noting that there are “a lot of good” migrants coming over the border illegally, but that there are criminals coming over the border, as well.

“But there still needs to be some kind of law and order for these people, and, right now, if we do away with ICE, nobody’s got the authority to do anything with them in terms of incarceration, detaining them, really finding out the things they’re doing,” he added.

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Tuberville also said that the completion of the border wall started under President Trump would help alleviate the border crisis, saying the structure would help the US “take in who we need to take in” and prevent border agents from being put in “no-win” situations.

“Unless you really know what’s going on, if you’re an American citizen that lives in Oklahoma, Michigan or North Carolina, you see it a little bit, you hear it, [but] you don’t really understand it,” Tuberville said. “You’re going to get the ramifications of it in a short period of time through your taxpayer dollars if we don’t do something at the border.”

The Alabama senator added that he believes the media needs to be better about reporting the border crisis and blasted the Biden administration for their response to the crisis as well as the recent photo of a near-empty Donna, Texas migrant facility that he said was “staged.”

“It’s really a sad situation that the United States of America should have control of, but, for some reason, we’re not wanting to control it,” Tuberville added. 

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Texas Democratic Rep. Henry Cuellar — a Blue Dog unafraid to snap back at the Biden administration on immigration issues — eviscerated the president’s administration for the photo last week, accusing them of moving the migrants “just next door.”

The Empowering Law Enforcement Act aims to increase the power that state and local law enforcement have when it comes to immigration-related cases by amending the Immigration and Nationality Act to give them legal authority in cases involving migrants illegally crossing the border. 

The bill also gives more flexibility to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) on how long they can hold a migrant caught crossing the border illegally, extending the detention period past the 180-day deadline.

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Specifically, the legislation would give state and local law enforcement the ability to arrest, detain and even transfer illegal migrants into federal custody.

It would also make sure that illegal migrants are kept in federal custody at the request of state and local police as well as promote greater communication between DHS and the FBI to help law enforcement agencies at the state and local level.

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