Bill would make it easier to deport criminals

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By Dennis Romero  with NBC News U.S. News
Image: Paul Ryan, Karen Handel
House Speaker Paul Ryan, right, with U.S. Rep. Karen Handel, R-Georgia, as she was campaigning for office in May 2017. Handel's Community Safety & Security Act would redefine the term "crime of violence" and make it easier to deport lawbreakers.   -  Copyright  David Goldman AP file

A bill that would redefine the crimes for which someone could be deported was approved Friday by the U.S. House of Representatives on a 247-152 vote and praised by President Donald Trump.

"Under our horrible immigration laws, the Government is frequently blocked from deporting criminal aliens with violent felony convictions," Trump tweeted. He added that lawmakers "need to get this bill to my desk fast!"

The proposal by U.S. Rep. Karen Handel, R-Georgia, would close what backers describe as a loophole in U.S. law after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled earlier this year that the current "crime of violence" standard for deportation was "unconstitutionally vague."

"Failure to address this issue would have led to uncertainty in our courts and potentially disrupt the prosecution of certain crimes of violence," Handel said in a statement.

The legislation defines the term as including voluntary manslaughter, attempted kidnapping, lewd and lascivious acts upon a child, sexual assault, assault on a police officer, human trafficking, burglary, and unlawful possession of a firearm.

It also includes "the use, attempted use, or threatened use of physical force" against people or property.

Critics of the bill say it's being rushed through the process and that it unfairly expands the definition of a criminal to allow for expanded deportations by a president who has already vowed to seal the nation's borders and throw out undesirable immigrants.

Opponents include the American Civil Liberties Union, the Immigrant Legal Resource Center, and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.

U.S. Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-New York, ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee, said in a statement that the bill " has serious implications in immigration law because a non-citizen convicted of an 'aggravated felony,' defined under the Immigration and Nationality Act to include a 'crime of violence' under this section, is deportable, and would be denied the opportunity for certain discretionary relief from removal."

The legislation now goes to the Senate.