House Republicans have asked Attorney General Eric Holder to appeal a court decision that would allow criminal gang members who are also illegal immigrants to seek asylum in the U.S. for renouncing their membership.
The case involved Julio Martinez, a former member of the MS-13 gang from El Salvador, in which the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit determined last month that he should not be forcibly removed from the country because his life would be in danger.
Rep. Bob Goodlatte of Virginia, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, and Rep. Randy Forbes of Virginia asked Holder in a letter Friday whether the ruling in North Carolina would be challenged by the Obama administration in the Supreme Court.
“This decision encourages fraud and creates a new loophole where gang members can simply claim that they are no longer a member of a gang in order to game the immigration system,” Goodlatte and Forbes said in the letter.
“This undermines the federal government’s ability to enforce our immigration laws and promote public safety,” the lawmakers said.
Martinez was found guilty of marijuana possession, but asked the court to refrain from deporting him back to El Salvador claiming his life was in danger because he had renounced his membership in the Mara Salvatrucha gang (MS-13).
The House lawmakers said that Congress did not intend for criminal gangs to be considered social groups worthy of protection.
They also argued the ruling would interfere with enforcement of immigration laws and make it tougher to remove those involved with organized criminal activities.
“It is no secret that criminal gangs are a continuing national problem … Current and former gang members should not be shielded by our asylum or withholding system,” the lawmakers said.