Thank you for contacting me about H.R. 347, the Federal Restricted Buildings and Grounds Improvement Act. It is an honor to represent the people of Southwest Washington, and it is important for me to hear from folks in our region.
H.R. 347 was passed by Congress and signed in to law by President Obama in March of 2011. This bill updates the Federal criminal code to make it a Federal offense to unlawfully enter the White House, Vice President’s official residency, or places where the President, Vice President, or other individuals protected by the Secret Service are visiting. Prior to the passage of this bill it was considered a minor misdemeanor to trespass upon the grounds of the White House or Vice President’s residency. This bill closes a loophole that could have prevented the Secret Service from fulfilling its responsibilities to protect the President, Vice President, and other individuals it is tasked with safeguarding.
Several people have expressed concerns that this bill could limit their Constitutional rights, specifically the First Amendment rights of protesters. Please rest assured that nothing in this legislation takes away anyone’s right to free speech. Folks will still have the ability to exercise their First Amendment rights and protest at the White House, U.S. Capitol, and other federal buildings. This legislation aims to provide better security for the President, Vice President, and other officials by strengthening penalties for those who enter a restricted building with the intent to do harm.
Thank you again for contacting me on this important issue. I invite you to visit my website at http://www.jaimehb.house.gov for additional information or to sign up to be kept up to date on these issues. Please do not hesitate to contact me if I can ever be of assistance.
Jaime Herrera Beutler
Member of Congress