(The Daily Caller News Foundation)—The House of Representatives passed a bill on Tuesday to impose new criminal and immigration penalties on smugglers and illegal migrants evading arrest across the southern border.
Criminal cartels linked to the cross-border drug trade have invested heavily in efforts to illegally smuggle foreign nationals seeking to live in the United States across the southern border, with their operatives, known as “coyotes,” often directing migrants into the interior of the country and leading to U.S. Border Patrol (USBP) pursuits. On Tuesday, the House passed a bill to target such conduct, which has previously resulted in injuries and deaths of USBP agents.
The bill was passed by a vote of 271 yeas to 154 nays, with many Democrats voting in favor. It was principally sponsored by Republican Rep. Juan Ciscomani of Arizona, whose district includes a portion of the international border with Mexico, and is named the “Agent Raul Gonzalez Officer Safety Act” for a USBP agent who, in 2022, died in the line of duty while pursuing migrants on an all-terrain-vehicle (ATV).
“My district sees high-speed car chases coming through our communities every day, putting both the lives of Arizonans and Border Patrol agents in jeopardy,” wrote Ciscomani in a press release in September of 2023 about the bill. “We must send a signal to any bad actors illegally coming through the southern border that their actions have dire consequences.”
The bill creates a new federal criminal offense for intentionally fleeing USBP within 100 miles of the international border, subject to imprisonment of up to two years. If a subject’s flight results in serious bodily injury or death, the penalties increase to a maximum of 20 years or life in prison, respectively.
The bill would also bar any individuals convicted under the new law, who themselves are illegally present in the United States, from receiving any legal status thereafter, including asylum status.
“Traffickers are killing people by loading up a car or truck stacked with illegal immigrants and then engaging in high-speed chases with Border Patrol or local police,” wrote Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, who has introduced a companion bill in the Senate, in a statement. “These high-speed chases often end in tragedy, with people being killed regularly after the traffickers crash and passengers are thrown across the highway. Equally tragic are those innocent Americans who are struck by an illegal alien fleeing police or Border Patrol.”
The bill received many endorsements from several border-area law enforcement agencies, as well as the National Border Patrol Council and National Sheriffs’ Association, according to Ciscomani’s member website.
In the Senate, a bipartisan group of senators is currently negotiating a deal to enact border security measures in exchange for funding Ukraine during its war against Russia. The text of the deal has not yet been released, though its leaked provisions have been heavily criticized by congressional Republicans and some Democrats.
“We must ensure that there are meaningful consequences in place for any illegal migrant who threatens the safety of our communities and lives of our citizens,” wrote the office of House Majority Leader Steve Scalise in a statement to the Daily Caller News Foundation.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and the White House did not immediately respond to the DCNF’s request for comment.