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Jacky Rosen co-sponsors bill to protect religious centers

Updated March 28, 2017 - 12:52 pm

WASHINGTON — House lawmakers filed a bipartisan bill that would increase penalties and provide $20 million for the Department of Homeland Security to secure faith-based community centers.

The companion bill to Senate legislation was filed after a wave of bomb threats to Jewish community centers nationwide, including one in Las Vegas.

“I have been shocked and alarmed by the escalation of the anti-Semitic hate crimes that have been sweeping our country, including Southern Nevada,” said Rep. Jacky Rosen, D-Nev., one of the bill’s co-sponsors.

Rosen said that in recent months a bomb threat was called into the Jewish community center and etchings of Nazi swastikas were found at the Mexican consulate and a synagogue “just 30 minutes from my home” in Las Vegas.

“These threats are real, and they cannot be and will not be ignored,” she said.

Rep. John Katko, R-N.Y., said that with recurrent threats to Jewish community centers around the country and in central New York, it is urgent that measures are taken to stop criminal acts.

“This bill is critical to that effort,” said Katko, a co-sponsor.

A wave of bomb threats and vandalism has been directed at Jewish community centers across the country. There have been more than 100 threats to Jewish community centers in 2017, according to the FBI.

The bomb threats to the Jewish Community Center of Southern Nevada were a hoax, but Jolie Brislin, the Anti-Defamation League’s Nevada regional director, said the threats are “usually used as scare tactics to cause fear and panic in our community.”

An American-Israeli 19-year-old was arrested near Tel Aviv last week in connection with the bomb threats. U.S. law enforcement officers contend the suspect is involved in bomb threats to Jewish community centers in 12 states, including Nevada.

Earlier this month, Juan Thompson, 31, was arrested and charged with cyberstalking. Thompson made eight bomb threats against Jewish centers in the name of his former girlfriend, according to the FBI.

The wave of threats prompted Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., and Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-N.M., to introduce bipartisan legislation earlier this month to put $20 million in the State Homeland Security Grant Program and dedicate those funds to safeguarding faith-based community centers.

The legislation would also double the penalty from five years to 10 years for conviction of making false bomb threats.

“Anti-Semitism or any kind of discrimination should never be tolerated,” Heller said. “We must take measures to prevent these actions from occurring.”

The bipartisan bill filed by Rosen and other House members is companion legislation to the Senate version.

Those bills now go to their respective committees in the House and Senate for consideration.

Contact Gary Martin at 202-662-7390 or gmartin@reviewjournal.com. Follow @garymartindc on Twitter.

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