Cline’s claim about gang members and green cards rated mostly false

Congressman Cline is one of several Congressional Republicans who are spreading falsehoods about the the Dream and Promise Act passed by the House of Representatives earlier this month.

Also known as H.R. 6, the Democratic legislation would open up a path to a green card for nearly 2.7 million undocumented immigrants, according to the Migration Policy Institute. The bill covers “dreamers” — a term for undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as children — and smaller groups of noncitizens who were eligible for temporary protected status or “deferred enforced departure” before the Trump administration announced it would curb those programs.
As MPI noted in this analysis, the bill covers “unauthorized immigrants, regardless of age, who entered the United States before age 18 and at least four years before enactment of the legislation, and who have a high school diploma or GED, or are enrolled in a high school, GED program, or an apprenticeship program.”
“This bill will certainly give green cards to gang members,” Rep. Ken Buck (R-Colo.) said during the floor debate. Rep. Ben Cline (R-Va.) said “H.R. 6 also provides green cards to gang members.”

But according to The Washington Post Fact Checker:

The Dream and Promise Act says it doesn’t cover immigrants who “knowingly, willfully, and voluntarily participated in offenses committed by a criminal street gang” at any point in the five years before their application for a green card. This provision does not seem to require a conviction of any kind, only proof of participation in a crime gang.

However, the bill also says “allegations of gang membership obtained from a State or Federal in-house or local database, or a network of databases used for the purpose of recording and sharing activities of alleged gang members across law enforcement agencies, shall not establish the participation.”

Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren of California made a key point:

“If we had wanted to prevent the Department of Homeland Security from using or referring to gang databases, we would have said so,” Lofgren said on the House floor. “The bill would clearly state that DHS could not use, rely on, or refer to gang databases. That is not what the bill says. The bill says ‘it shall not establish disqualifying gang participation.’ It can be evidence, but it can’t be the establishment of that fact.”

She continued: “Now, why would that be the case? We value our law enforcement community. They keep us safe. They are hard-working. But these databases are populated by people way beyond law enforcement, people in school police, school security. They can result in people being mistakenly tagged as gang members when they are not. I will give an example. There was an audit done of California’s gang database, CalGang. When the auditors went through, they found out there were 42 individuals who were under the age of 1 year old who had allegedly self-reported that they were part of a gang. Obviously, that was incorrect. So we would not want to make that the determining factor.”

The Fact Checker concludes:

Republicans are making sweeping and factually flawed claims that H.R. 6 would give legal status to gang members and smugglers. We give them Three Pinocchios.

Under The Post’s rating system, Three Pinocchios signifies

Significant factual error and/or obvious contradictions. This gets into the realm of “mostly false.”

Cline, like President Trump and many other Republicans, is all too willing to engage in phony scaremongering on immigration-related issues. It’s easier and perhaps less politically risky than doing the hard work of fixing a broken immigration system.

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