Zeldin bill targets gang members’ citizenship

Congressman Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) introduced a bill that aims to revoke the citizenship of immigrants who were involved in gang activity before being naturalized or within 10 years after becoming citizens. 

The bill, known as the Protecting Our Communities from Gang Violence Act, was first introduced Feb. 8. A revised version, introduced Feb. 15, was referred to the House judiciary committee.

“From the vicious machete attack of four young men in Central Islip, to the childhood best friends brutally murdered by MS-13 in Brentwood, our community has witnessed the indiscriminate brutality of gang violence first hand,” Mr. Zeldin said in an a statement announcing the bill last week. “Every level of government has a role to play in combating the rise of MS-13 and other gangs, and we must crack down on the aspects of our nation’s broken immigration system and other policies that have allowed MS-13 and other gangs to take hold in our communities and stay there.”

Mr. Zeldin met with President Donald Trump at the White House Feb. 6 to discuss combating MS-13, according to a post on the congressman’s Facebook page. The president had targeted the gang in his State of the Union speech on Jan. 30, to which he invited the parents of two teenage girls who were killed by the gang in 2016.

The president previously called for the eradication of MS-13 in a speech given in July to law enforcement in Brentwood.
“United States naturalization is a privilege, not a right, and those who have had this privilege bestowed upon them must respect and uphold the laws of our land,” Mr. Zeldin said in a statement.

Following the announcement, Steve Choi, executive director of the New York Immigration Coalition, issued a statement critical of the bill.

“This bill is shameless political posturing,” Mr. Choi said. “It will actually cripple public safety, while demonizing Long Island’s thousands of hard-working immigrants. As we’ve seen, ICE’s so-called gang affiliation is often based on arbitrary criteria that needlessly criminalizes young immigrant men of color, as opposed to targeting actual criminals. Rep. Zeldin’s proposed legislation would do nothing to help public safety and impede law-abiding immigrants from getting their hard-won citizenship, while further undermining trust between law enforcement and immigrant communities.”

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