Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt) admitted Wednesday that under the Senate immigration bill, forging up to two passports is not a crime, adding that the bill leaves the decision whether to charge someone with passport fraud up to the discretion of prosecutors.
On Capitol Hill on Wednesday, CNSNews.com asked Leahy, “One of the provisions has to do with passports, that’s an important component. Do you know how many passports someone is able to forge before it’s a crime?”
Leahy said, “Well, it depends upon which interpretation is being used. You could have one form which is two, but then there are other criminal conduct that would be involved with that.”
“Cause you give prosecutors a certain amount of discretion, you have two or three different crimes you have committed, so then it’s [up to] prosecutorial discretion which one they will charge. I mean, I spent eight years as a prosecutor. One of things you learn [is] the importance of that.”
Leahy made the remarks in an interview with CNSNews.com after he was asked how many passports someone could forge before it was a crime under Senate Bill 744, which passed on a 68-to-32 vote June 27. All Senate Democrats and 14 Republicans voted for the bill.
While not a member of the bipartisan “Gang of Eight” group of senators who sponsored the bill, Leahy was a staunch supporter and voted for passage.
“With this legislation, we honor our American values,” Leahy said in a press release on the day the bill cleared the Senate.
“We honor the search of our forbearers for freedom, for prosperity, and for the promise that America has held out to so many for so long. Today is a good day for the Senate, and for the country. Today, with the help of many Senators, we will address a complex problem that is hurting our families, stifling our economy and threatening our security.”
In June, Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Ia.) introduced three amendments “that would tighten criminal laws that are being weakened in the comprehensive immigration bill being debated by the Senate,” but amendment #45 regarding passport fraud was rejected by the Senate Judiciary Committee on an 8-10 vote. Title 18, Section 1541 of the U.S. Code provides for fines and imprisonment up to 25 years for granting, issuing, or verifying “any passport” without proper authority.
But Section 3707 of the nearly 1,200-page Senate immigration bill amends that section to impose criminal penalties only after a person fabricates “three or more” phony passports. (See S 744.pdf)