On Tuesday, the House voted unanimously to stop law enforcement from seizing assets, such as cash and property from people who are suspected of crimes but who have not necessarily been charged, The Hill reports.
The move is a huge move on Congress’ part to limit the power of the Trump administration. In fact, a bipartisan group of lawmakers advocated the amendment to a government-spending package for 2018 that would prohibit the Trump administration from using funds to remove restrictions on the use of asset forfeiture. The practice allows law enforcement to seize cash and property and keep at least part of the proceeds, which is a recipe for corruption.
The Opposition to relaxing the Obama-era asset-forfeiture limits is supported by conservative House Freedom Caucus and liberal progressives. Sponsors of the amendment included Reps. Justin Amash (R-Mich.), Mark Sanford (R-S.C.), Raúl Labrador (R-Idaho), Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) and Don Beyer (D-Va.), according to The Hill.
The lawmakers’ amendment would specifically prohibit the use of what’s known as “adoptive forfeiture,” which allows the federal government to take assets seized by local authorities. “This practice is outrageous. It supplants the authority of states to regulate their own law enforcement and it further mires the federal government in unconstitutional asset forfeitures,” Amash stated.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions attempted to make the Department of Justice reverse Obama’s policy earlier this year, asserting that “asset forfeiture is one of law enforcement’s most effective tools to reduce crime and its use should be encouraged where appropriate.”
Sessions continued: “To ensure that this tool is used appropriately, the Department is implementing safeguards to make certain that there is sufficient evidence of criminal activity before a federal adoption occurs, that the evidence is well documented, that our state and local law enforcement partners have appropriate training to use this tool, and that there is appropriate supervisory review of decisions to approve forfeiture.”