Attorney General Jeff Sessions calls on Congress to pass sanctuary-city legislation.
This weekend marks the two-year anniversary of the unnecessary death of Kate Steinle, who was randomly shot on a pier in the sanctuary city of San Fransisco, touching off a huge debate about the policies followed by more than 300 U.S. cities that welcome and harbor criminal illegal aliens.
After two years of debating, Congress may be ready to do something.
On Thursday, the House of Representatives did its part, passing "Kate's Law," which increases the penalties on illegal-alien criminals who try to re-enter the country, and another bill cracking down on sanctuary cities.
Republicans have tried to pass Kate's Law since her death, and they are hoping the bill can finally become law under President Trump, who supports it. President Barack Obama had opposed it.
The bill on Thursday passed 257-167 with the help of 24 House Democrats. The legislation would let judges increase penalties against illegal immigrants who are deported after being convicted of a crime, and who then re-enter the country.
"For too long, illegal re-entry of criminal entries has been viewed as a minor felony with only a fraction of those repeat offenders ever seeing the inside of a federal courtroom," said bill sponsor and House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., during floor debate.
"These horrific events must be better deterred and prevented," he said of Steinle's murder.
Trump campaigned on the sanctuary city issue last year and frequently mentioned Steinle and her parents on the campaign trail.
"During my campaign, I met many grieving families who all had the same plea: Lawmakers must put the safety of American families first," President Trump said in a statement released by the White House Thursday. "Today, I applaud the House for passing two crucial measures to save and protect American lives."
The first bill, Kate's Law, increases criminal penalties for illegal immigrants who repeatedly re-enter the country illegally.
"Every year, countless Americans are victimized, assaulted and killed by illegal immigrants who have been deported multiple times. It is time for these tragedies to end," Trump said.
Kate Steinle, 32, was killed while
visiting the pier in San Francisco with
her father and other family members.
"Lopez-Sanchez should never have been on that pier with Kate. He should have been in the custody of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)," said Attorney General Jeff Sessions in an op-ed emailed to WND Thursday. "And he would have been if San Francisco had only notified ICE of his release from the city's custody, as ICE had requested."
But San Francisco refused to do so. The city continues to refuse to cooperate with federal immigration authorities. In fact, it's city policy.
"That's because San Francisco is one of about 300 cities that openly refuse to turn over criminal illegal aliens to federal law enforcement," Sessions wrote.
"These cities protect illegal aliens who have committed crimes, rather than their law-abiding residents. These jurisdictions refuse to provide ICE with information about removable illegal aliens who are in their custody and have committed a crime or are suspected of having committed a crime.
"Congress can do its part to help end these policies by passing the No Sanctuary for Criminals Act and Kate's Law, two bills that would make all Americans safer," Sessions said in the statement.
The No Sanctuary for Criminals Act would withhold certain federal grant money from cities and counties that prohibit their officers from cooperating with ICE.
"Under this bill, American taxpayers will no longer be forced to subsidize jurisdictions whose policies effectively work to make us less safe," Sessions wrote.
The House is set to vote on the two bills Thursday.
The bills — "Kate's Law" and "No Sanctuary for Criminals Act" — would up the penalties on undocumented immigrants who attempt to re-enter the country illegally after being deported for crimes and slash funds from cities that protect them.
The bill also contains a provision — known as Sarah and Grant's law — which would ensure that illegal aliens are detained pending their removal proceedings, rather than let them continue to linger in U.S. communities for weeks, months and even years after they have been ordered deported. This provision was named after Sarah Root, a recent college graduate who was killed by an illegal alien charged with driving under the influence of alcohol, and Grant Ronnebeck, who was killed by an illegal alien — a self-proclaimed member of the Sinaloa cartel — who had been released on bail pending his removal proceeding.
Congress can also make it harder for criminal aliens to repeatedly re-enter the United States. "Kate's Law" would do that by increasing the penalties for deported aliens who return to the United States.
"We must send a clear message that re-entering after having been previously deported will cease to be a minor matter, but will result in prison and deportation," Sessions writes.
"It's hard to believe, but some even refuse to hold known MS-13 gang members so that ICE can take them into custody," he added. "This gang terrorizes communities from Los Angeles to Long Island, killing, robbing, and pushing dangerous drugs on our streets. Members of this gang have murdered and gang-raped innocent children as part of their initiation into the group."
He said at least 10,000 of these gang members are estimated to be in 40 states today, and they tend to be concentrated in places that do not cooperate with federal immigration authorities.
It's easy to see why.
"Consider the case of Ever Valles, an illegal alien who was charged with robbing and murdering 32-year-old Tim Cruz at a Denver light rail station. ICE notified Denver authorities that it wanted to take custody of Valles, who had previously been charged with car theft and weapon possession and was a known gang member. But Denver authorities released him anyway. Cruz would not have died at the hands of Ever Valles had Valles been in ICE custody that day."
Cities like Denver also continue to shelter illegal aliens that are charged with driving under the influence or hit-and-run, despite the countless instances of illegal aliens, like Norlan Estrada-Reyes, driving carelessly and killing innocent Americans. In October, Estrada-Reyes hit and killed a young lawyer, Karina Pulec, and then fled from the scene. Estrada-Reyes had previously been arrested, but ICE was never notified.
Congress can take a major step for public safety, Sessions said, by passing these two critical pieces of legislation.