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Zeldin bill would revoke citizenship of street gang members

Rep. Lee Zeldin has called for a crackdown on the MS-13 crime syndicate after introducing an election-year bill last week to strip U.S. citizenship from naturalized citizens deemed to be members, associates or supporters of street gangs.

Zeldin introduced the bill — which would revoke citizenship for anyone deemed to have been involved in gang activities within 10 years of their naturalization — after telling President Donald Trump about it two weeks ago in a White House meeting on combatting MS-13.

“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,” Zeldin said in announcing the legislation.

“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,” said Zeldin, who takes a hard line on immigration enforcement.

The bill, which has no co-sponsors, was referred to the House Judiciary Committee. A Zeldin aide said he is seeking other sponsors and working with the committee chair.

Zeldin offered the bill as the Department of Homeland Security has stepped up efforts to denaturalize and deport naturalized citizens it contends have broken the law.

Steven Choi, the executive director of the New York Immigration Coalition, called the bill another attempt to profile and target immigrants, particular those who are not white. “This bill is shameless political posturing,” Choi said.

Madhuri Grewal, an immigration attorney for the ACLU, said, “It’s extremely sweeping, overbroad and raises constitutional questions.”

The bill changes key definitions used in immigration law, grants the Homeland Security secretary and attorney general unreviewable discretion, and allows designation of a person as a gang member using classified information, she said.

Immigration law already allows revocation of naturalization for those who become a member or affiliate of the Community Party, other totalitarian parties or a terrorist organization within five years of that person’s naturalization, as well as for immigrants who lied to become U.S. citizens.

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