Infighting on the Republican-controlled Senate Judiciary Committee over strict minimum mandatory sentences for illegal immigrants who return to the United States after being deported could torpedo the GOP’s opportunity to pass tough legislation following the highly publicized death of a San Francisco woman last month, Politico
Republican presidential candidate and Texas Sen.Ted Cruz, who sits on the powerful Judiciary Committee, is pushing for "Kate’s Law" — named after Kate Steinle, the woman allegedly killed by a Mexican national who had been deported at least five times — which would impose a mandatory minimum five-year prison sentence for people who attempt to enter the country illegally after being deported.
Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley of Iowa and Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions, known for his hard-line position on illegal immigration, side with Cruz.
But they are meeting resistance from inside their own party, by the likes of Utah Sen. Mike Lee and Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake "who have both criticized mandatory minimums for certain crimes and are skittish about implementing such penalties for undocumented immigrants," according to Politico.
"There may be some ways to accommodate some of those concerns, but not with mandatory minimums like that," Flake said.
The GOP’s slim 11-9 majority on the committee leaves no room for dissenters unless it can pick up votes from Democrats on the committee, which isn’t likely, the website notes.
Lawmakers have introduced a flurry of new anti-immigration bills since Steinle’s death, which sparked outrage nationwide and brought other families whose loved ones were killed by illegal immigrants to the fore, particularly concerning the issue of sanctuary cities.
Sanctuary cities, such as San Francisco, where Steinle was killed, provide a safe haven for illegal immigrants by prohibiting the use of municipal funds to enforce federal immigration laws. Police in sanctuary cities are not allowed to ask about a person's immigration status.
Utah’s Lee, according to Politico, is threatening to oppose sanctuary cities legislation if it includes mandatory minimums.
The Huffington Post reported last month
that among the other proposed legislation is a bill to require the some 300 sanctuary cities to cooperate with Immigration and Customs Enforcement or risk losing federal funding.
Similar bills have been introduced by Sens. Rand Paul of Kentucky, David Vitter of Louisiana, Tom Cotton of Arkansas, and Duncan Hunter of California.
But local authorities, according to Huffington Post, such as the U.S. Conference of Mayors and the National League of Cities, are pleading with Washington to let local jurisdictions "craft their own policies, including declining to cooperate with federal programs that they say make people afraid to work with police and can lead to unconstitutional detentions," according to the Post.
North Carolina Sen. Thom Tillis, who sits on the Judiciary Committee, told Politico that he’s comfortable with enhanced minimum mandatory sentences for illegal immigrants.
"These are noncitizens violating our immigration laws," he said. "I think you can hold them to a different standard. Some may think it’s a conflict; I look at these as people illegally entering and re-entering the country, and that’s why I’m able to rationalize."
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