Immigration activists march in a rally against the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) raids and deportation of immigrants near the downtown Los Angeles Federal Building.

In the hopes of reducing the number of immigrants swiftly deported back to their home countries, three House Democrats introduced a resolution Thursday to amend federal policies that have resulted in harsh consequences for hundreds of thousands of individuals and their families.

The “Fix96 Resolution” would repeal two immigration laws that dramatically expanded the type of offenses that could be considered “aggravated felonies” — a category of criminal convictions that carry harsh consequences like mandatory detention, potential deportation, and a permanent ban from re-entering the United States.

These laws, signed in 1996 by former President Bill Clinton, have made it easier to arrest and deport hundreds of thousands of immigrants who commit minor crimes. Under the policies, being in possession of marijuana, shoplifting, and writing a bad check are all defined as “aggravated felonies.” As it stands now, immigrants who commit these type of low-level criminal offenses are arrested, sent to serve their prison sentences, and immediately turned over to federal immigration custody for potential deportation proceedings.

The pair of laws also helped to expand a program allowing local law enforcement officials to collaborate with federal immigration enforcement; made detention mandatory for minor infractions; and ended judicial review so that immigration judges couldn’t intervene when the punishment outweighed the crime.

“Two of the most egregious contributing factors to the criminalization of immigrants are laws that have been on the books for two decades now,” Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), one of the sponsors of the bill, said in a press statement. “The expansion of the term ‘aggravated felony’ has led to excessive detention and deportation for scores of immigrants. These unjust laws have splintered families and denied the right for judges to intervene through judicial review. Twenty years is far too long to cling to such broken and morally bankrupt policies.”

The resolution, sponsored by Reps. Grijalva, Keith Ellison (D-MN), and Judy Chu (D-CA) and supported by more than 80 immigrant advocacy organizations, is likely to be shot down in the Republican-controlled Congress. But Democratic lawmakers’ goal is to “set the tone” and “lay the foundations” for a national dialogue about immigration reform, La Opinion reported.

Between 2007 and 2012, nearly 266,000 deported immigrants’ most serious conviction was related to drugs, according to a Human Rights Watch report. Among the immigrants deported for an aggravated felony during that time period, about a quarter had a conviction for possession or use of a drug. While the report couldn’t determine the overall situation for each individual, “it is likely that many had committed offenses that fall short of what most people would consider drug trafficking.”

One legal services attorney explained to HRW that it was possible that addicts buy multiple bags of methamphetamine and end up getting charged with possession with intent to sell. In another case that HRW documented, one person who had been prescribed pain medication “did not like it, and gave it away with no renumeration. But he was convicted of attempted delivery of a controlled substance.” The individual, a legal immigrant with a green card, had lived in the U.S. since the 1970s, had family members living in the U.S., and had no other criminal record — but still spent six months in immigration detention.

“Millions of immigrants — mothers, fathers, and even children — have had their basic human rights stripped by laws that criminalize people who are trying to better their lives,” Ellison said in a press statement. “America is the place that welcomes immigrants with ‘give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses’. We should not be in the business of separating families or detaining people for years for minor offenses.”

Democrats Introduce Resolution To Protect More Immigrants From Deportation | ThinkProgress