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OCASIO-CORTEZ States That Illegal Immigration Wasn’t Criminalized Before 1999, And Here Is Why She Is WRONG

Democratic congressional candidate Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said in an interview Wednesday that the U.S. did not add criminal penalties to immigration law until about 1999.

Verdict: False

The U.S. criminalized unlawful entry in 1929. Laws passed in the 1990s intensified criminal penalties relating to immigration.

Fact Check:

Ocasio-Cortez defeated incumbent Rep. Joseph Crowley, one of the top Democrats in the House, in a New York primary Tuesday. She is a member of the Democratic Socialists of America and has called to abolish Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

Ocasio-Cortez elaborated on her reasons to abolish ICE on NPR’s “Morning Edition” Wednesday. “What we’re really talking about is re-imagining immigration to be humane,” she said. “It wasn’t until about 1999 that we chose to criminalize immigration at all, and then once ICE was established we really kind of militarized that enforcement to a degree that was previously unseen in the United States.”

Congress made unauthorized entry into the U.S. a criminal offense in 1929. Aliens who entered the country outside a port of entry or without examination by immigration officials could be charged with a misdemeanor. Previously deported aliens who tried to re-enter the country without authorization could be charged with a felony.

Unauthorized entry and unauthorized re-entry remain misdemeanor and felony charges today.

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