House passes tough im­mi­gra­tion crack­down

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY STEPHEN DINAN

The House on Thurs­day ap­proved what would be the tough­est im­mi­gra­tion crack­down in more than two decades, pass­ing bills that would crack down on so-called sanc­tu­ary cities and im­pose stiffer penal­ties on il­le­gal im­mi­grants who sneak back into the U.S. af­ter be­ing de­ported.

Ap­proval came nearly two years to the day af­ter Kathryn Steinle was slain by an il­le­gal im­mi­grant while walk­ing the wa­ter­front with her fa­ther in San Fran­cisco. The ap­provals were ma­jor wins for Pres­i­dent Trump, who gave vic­tims of il­le­gal im­mi­grant crimes an un­prece­dented plat­form in a de­bate that high­lighted the il­le­gal im­mi­grants them­selves.

Kate’s Law, named af­ter Steinle, would im­pose a two-year prison sen­tence on il­le­gal im­mi­grants who have been de­ported or de­nied ad­mis­sion to the U.S. but who sneak back into the coun­try any­way. The goal, back­ers said, was to try to root out re­peat il­le­gals who are re­spon­si­ble for a strik­ing string of high-pro­file crimes.

The bill cleared on a 257-167 vote and at­tracted sup­port from two dozen Democrats.

The bill against sanc­tu­ary cities, mean­while, would guar­an­tee lo­cal po­lice the abil­ity to work with im­mi­gra­tion agents and would cur­tail law­suits against com­mu­ni­ties that do co­op­er­ate with the De­part­ment of Home­land Se­cu­rity. That bill was ap­proved on a near party-line vote, 228-195.

“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,” Mr. Trump said in a state­ment.

He called on the Se­nate to fol­low the House’s lead, but both bills will face a tougher time in the up­per cham­ber, where party lead­ers are cer­tain to mount fil­i­busters.

Im­mi­grant rights ad­vo­cates said the bills were mo­ti­vated by racism and vowed to pun­ish sup­port­ers at the polls. Repub­li­can cam­paign op­er­a­tives, how­ever, were al­ready at­tack­ing Democrats who voted against the bills, say­ing they were re­ward­ing “law­break­ing crim­i­nals.”

Mr. Trump echoed that at­tack, say­ing op­po­si­tion to the bills “puts all of us at risk.”

Democrats ac­knowl­edged that the sto­ries of the fam­i­lies of Steinle and other vic­tims were heart­break­ing but said pun­ish­ing sanc­tu­ar­ies could end up pro­duc­ing other vic­tims by chas­ing im­mi­grants into the shad­ows and mak­ing them less likely to re­port crim­i­nals.

Rep. Joseph Crowley, New York Demo­crat, said New York po­lice have been able to de­tect and head off ter­ror­ist plots thanks to the city’s sanc­tu­ary poli­cies. He said much of the in­for­ma­tion gleaned on po­ten­tial attacks comes from il­le­gal im­mi­grants.

But a top Jus­tice De­part­ment lawyer said this month that it’s fear of re­tal­i­a­tion from crim­i­nal gangs, not fear of fed­eral agents, that keeps wit­nesses silent.

Sanc­tu­ary city poli­cies vary, and there is no good count of how many ju­ris­dic­tions are sanc­tu­ar­ies. In gen­eral, they limit — or in some cases out­right for­bid — com­mu­ni­cat­ing or co­op­er­at­ing with fed­eral im­mi­gra­tion of­fi­cers who are try­ing to de­tain and de­port crim­i­nal aliens.

Tens of thou­sands of crim­i­nals are re­leased onto the streets rather than turned over to fed­eral of­fi­cers, ac­cord­ing to U.S. Im­mi­gra­tion and Cus­toms En­force­ment. ICE agents have to go out into com­mu­ni­ties to try to ar­rest tar­gets, which of­fi­cials say is more dan­ger­ous for ev­ery­one in­volved.

As for Kate’s Law, Democrats said it made no sense to try to im­pose stiffer penal­ties on il­le­gal im­mi­grants who had put down roots in the U.S. and then got de­ported, say­ing that sneak­ing back in was nat­u­ral for peo­ple in that sit­u­a­tion.

They said the so­lu­tion was not to crack down on il­le­gal im­mi­grants, but rather to grant them a path­way to cit­i­zen­ship, eras­ing their il­le­gal sta­tus.

“The im­mi­grant com­mu­nity is look­ing for cham­pi­ons to­day,” said Rep. Luis V. Gu­tier­rez, Illi­nois Demo­crat.

Democrats mostly main­tained their ranks in Thurs­day’s votes, but over­all they have been reel­ing since Mr. Trump’s elec­tion.

For years, they felt like they were gain­ing the up­per hand in the po­lit­i­cal de­bate. They passed a broad bill grant­ing cit­i­zen­ship rights to as many as 8 mil­lion im­mi­grants in the Se­nate in 2013 and won uni­lat­eral pro­tec­tions from the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion, which halted en­force­ment against most il­le­gal im­mi­grants. Mr. Trump’s cam­paign changed all that. The Steinle killing hap­pened just days af­ter Mr. Trump jumped into the pres­i­den­tial race, de­cry­ing the crim­i­nal be­hav­ior of il­le­gal im­mi­grants. As a can­di­date, he held nu­mer­ous events with fam­i­lies whose chil­dren and spouses were killed by il­le­gal im­mi­grants — and even gave them prime-time speak­ing roles at the Repub­li­can Na­tional Con­ven­tion.

Now in the White House, Mr. Trump put at the head of the Home­land Se­cu­rity De­part­ment a re­tired Marine gen­eral with a pen­chant for tough talk, in­clud­ing against Congress.

In the lat­est such blunt crit­i­cism, Sec­re­tary John F. Kelly went to Capi­tol Hill on Thurs­day and not only called for the two crack­down bills to be passed but also said mem­bers of Congress have tried to “threaten” him over his de­part­ment’s stepped up en­force­ment of the im­mi­gra­tion laws it wrote.

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