Fact check: Meme misrepresents vote on notifying ICE when undocumented immigrants purchase firearms

Adrienne Dunn, USA TODAY
·4 min read

The claim: Democrats voted against notifying ICE when undocumented immigrants buy firearms

Conversations surrounding gun control have picked up again after mass shootings in Boulder, Colorado, and Atlanta.

Democrats are advocating for expanded background checks, and President Joe Biden is facing questions about where he stands on the issue.

But one viral Facebook post claimed Democrats in Congress cast a vote that headed in the other direction, limiting the information flow on one group of gun owners. It says Democrats opposed notifying U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement when undocumented immigrants purchase firearms.

The post includes an undated image of lawmakers in the House of Representatives, with text that reads, "Judiciary Committee just offered an amendment that requires ICE be notified when an illegal immigrant tries to purchase a firearm (and) Dems voted NO. So the Dems just admitted they have no problem with people having guns. As long as they are not American citizens that are working class."

The claim, which has appeared in various forms since 2019, refers to a bill Democrats initially opposed for procedural reasons but ultimately ended up supporting.

USA TODAY has reached out to the poster for comment.

Meme is 2 years old

The claim in this post originated on a now-suspended Twitter account, but an archived version of the meme from Feb. 16, 2019, can still be viewed here.

It has since popped up repeatedly on social media, including a claim posted in February 2020 that was recirculating widely in early 2021.

The bill in question, H.R. 8 or the "Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2019," was introduced by Rep. Mike Thompson, D-Calif., in January 2019.

The bill would have required more consistent, prevalent background checks for the purchase of firearms. It passed in the Democrat-controlled House but died in the Senate.

Before going to a vote, Republican congressmen proposed two amendments to the bill involving ICE.

Virginia Rep. Ben Cline's amendment would have required ICE to be notified if an undocumented immigrant fails a background check when trying to purchase a firearm. Cline compared his amendment to H.R. 4343, or the "Unlawful Gun Buyer Alert Act," that Democrats proposed in 2017.

H.R. 4343 would have required "notification to relevant law enforcement agencies in the event that a background check conducted by the National Instant Criminal Background Check System determines that a person may not receive a firearm, and for other purposes."

Democrats on the Judiciary Committee did not adopt Cline's amendment to the bill, citing procedural reasons and claiming it was irrelevant to the legislation.

Chairman Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., said the amendment was "way beyond the scope of the bill."

The other amendment, which was similar to Cline's, came from Rep. Greg Steube of Florida. His amendment took the language of H.R. 4343 and applied it directly to H.R. 8.

However, his amendment included the additional stipulation that if an undocumented immigrant fails a background check, ICE must be notified as well as the NICS.

Nadler asked Steube to withdraw his amendment so it could be considered more carefully before going to a vote, saying, "This looks, at first glance, like an amendment we might want to accept or work with.”

Steube refused to withdraw the amendment, and the committee ultimately voted against it.

Two weeks later, Rep. Doug Collins, R-Ga., added an amendment before the full House that added notifying ICE to H.R. 8. This proposal was adopted, and 26 Democrats voted alongside Republicans.

That vote took place on Feb. 27, 2019, nearly a year before the 2020 Facebook post we're checking here.

The bill, including the ICE notification requirement, was put to a vote and passed the House, with only two Democrats voting against it. The bill did not progress any further in the Senate.

Our rating: Missing Context

The claim in the post has been rated as MISSING CONTEXT. Democrats voted against adopting two amendments that included a requirement to notify ICE when an undocumented immigrant tries to purchase a firearm. However, this was based on procedural objections, given that the amendments surfaced late in the committee process. Democrats voiced potential support for the amendments at the time, and ultimately supported that amendment when it was introduced before the full House.

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Fact check: Meme misleads on Democrats' vote on immigrants and guns