House Republicans took action Thursday to crack down on illegal immigrants and the cities that shelter them.
One bill passed by the House would deny federal grants to sanctuary cities and another, Kate’s Law, would increase the penalties for deported aliens who try to return to the United States.
Kate’s Law, which would increase the penalties for deported aliens who try to return to the United States and caught, passed with a vote of 257 to 157, with one Republican voting no and 24 Democrats voting yes.
Kate’s Law is named for Kate Steinle, a San Francisco woman killed by an illegal immigrant who was in the U.S. despite multiple deportations. The two-year anniversary of her death is on Saturday.
“He should not have been here, and she should not have died,” House Speaker Paul Ryan said Thursday, in a final push for Kate’s Law, an earlier version of which was blocked in the Senate last year.
“Our job here is to make sure that those professionals have the tools that they need and the resources that they need to carry out their work and to protect our communities. That is what these measures are all about,” added Ryan.
The other bill, which would deny federal grants to sanctuary cities, passed with a vote of 228-195 with 3 Democrats voting yes and 7 Republicans voting no.
The brutal murder of Steinle catapulted the issue of illegal criminal aliens into the national spotlight. Alleged shooter Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez had been deported five times and had seven felony convictions.
On Wednesday, President Trump highlighted other cases during a White House meeting with more than a dozen families of people who had been victimized by illegal immigrants, including Jamiel Shaw Sr.
Shaw’s 17-year-old son Jamiel was shot and killed by an illegal immigrant in California in March 2008..
“He was living the dream,” Shaw said during the meeting. “That was squashed out.”
The second measure, “No Sanctuary for Criminals Act,” would cut federal grants to states and “sanctuary cities” that refuse to cooperate with law enforcement carrying out immigration enforcement activities.
“The word ‘sanctuary’ calls to mind someplace safe, but too often for families and victims affected by illegal immigrant crime, sanctuary cities are anything but safe,” Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly asserted in the pre-vote press conference.
“It is beyond my comprehension why federal state and local officials … would actively discourage or outright prevent law enforcement agencies from upholding the laws of the United States,” he added.
While gaining support in the Senate for similar legislation will be a tough road, Trump called for Congress to act quickly.
Trump called on the House and the Senate to “to honor grieving American families” by approving a “package of truly key immigration enforcement bills” so that he could sign them into law.
“I promise you, it will be done quickly. You don’t have to wait the mandatory period. It will be very quick,” promised Trump.
Earlier on Wednesday, Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director Thomas D. Homan and U.S. Attorney for Utah John W. Huber made their case for the bills during the White House press briefing.
Huber said 40 percent of Utah’s current felony caseload involves criminal alien prosecutions and the number is increasing.
The bills, Huber asserted, would “advance the ball for law enforcement in keeping our communities safe” and “would give officers and prosecutors more tools to protect the public.
Many immigration rights groups have characterized efforts to crack down on sanctuary cities as “anti-immigrant,” but Attorney General Jeff Sessions says it is not sound policy to allow sanctuary cities to flout federal immigration laws.
According to Homan, ICE already has arrested nearly 66,000 individuals this year that were either known or suspected to be in the country illegally. Of those arrested, 48,000 were convicted criminal aliens.
“The practices of these jurisdictions are not only contrary to sound policy; they’re contrary to the law enforcement cooperation that is carried out every day in our country and is essential to public safety,” Sessions wrote in a Fox News op-ed backing the bills.