This afternoon the Senate will vote on the motion to proceed to both Senator Toomey’s Stop Dangerous Sanctuary Cities Act, S. 3100, and Senator Cruz’s Stop Illegal Reentry Act (Kate’s Law), S. 2193. These bills will take positive steps towards better enforcement of current immigration laws and ending dangerous practices that have cost American lives. All Senators should support both of these bills.
Last July, an illegal alien, who had previously been deported 5 times, killed 32-year-old Kate Steinle in San Francisco. This horrific incident shed light on serious issues plaguing our immigration system, including the proliferation of “sanctuary cities” and the abject failure of federal, state, and local law enforcement to enforce detention, sentencing, and deportation laws.
As Hans von Spakovsky, Senior Legal Fellow Edwin Meese III Center for Legal and Judicial Studies at The Heritage Foundation, explains:
“San Francisco and other cities across the United States have created so-called “sanctuaries” for illegal aliens. These municipalities are defying federal immigration law, just like some Southern jurisdictions that defied federal civil rights laws in the 1960s.
But unlike that earlier era, today’s sanctuary cities are creating safe havens for known criminals. Their policies have victimized innocent Americans, enabling illegal aliens to commit thousands of crimes that would not otherwise have occurred.”
To help end this unlawful practice of Sanctuary Cities, Senator Toomey (R-PA), has introduced S. 3100, the Stop Dangerous Sanctuary Cities Act. The bill would define a “sanctuary jurisdiction” as a state or locality that prohibits any government entity from communicating with Federal immigration officials or from complying with a DHS detainer (a notice to hold an individual due to their immigration status). It also provides immunity for state and local law enforcement to fully comply with the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detainers without threat of being sued. Additionally, the legislation withholds certain Federal grants (public works and economic development grants and community development block grant funds) from states or localities that persist in flaunting Federal law and endangering their citizens by maintaining sanctuary city policies.
While San Francisco’s dangerous sanctuary city policy was a large factor in the death of Kate Steinle, her murderer had also previously been deported 5 times. Under current law, illegally entering the United States a second time after an initial deportation is punishable as a felony – – and yet there are no mandatory minimum sentences for illegal reentry. According to Senator Cruz’s background on his bill, Stop Illegal Reentry Act (Kate’s Law), S. 2193:
“Illegal reentry is a widespread phenomenon. In 2012, for instance, just over a quarter (27%) of the illegal aliens apprehended by the Border Patrol had prior removal orders—in other words, they had already been deported once before….
These numbers demonstrate that, for too many illegal aliens, the perceived rewards of reentering the United States after deportation outweigh both the likelihood and the consequences of being apprehended, prosecuted, imprisoned, and then deported again. Current statutory penalties for illegal reentry are an inadequate deterrent given the poor state of immigration enforcement. Indeed, according to DHS’s enforcement priorities, illegal reentry is not even considered a first-tier priority.”
Senator Cruz’s bill amends the Immigration and Nationality Act to strengthen criminal penalties for illegal reentry. As Cully Stimson, Manager of the National Security Law Program in Heritage’s Davis Institute for International Studies, explains:
“[The bill] would increase the punishment from its current penalty of imprisonment of not more than two years to imprisonment not less than five years and not more than six. In other sections, it changes the penalty from not more than 20 years to not less than five and not more than 20, or, not more than 10 years to not less than five years and not more than 10 years.
These modest increases in sentences for recidivist criminal aliens makes sense given the scope of the problem.”
The Cruz and Toomey bills are modest, common-sense improvements to current law. Both Republican and Democrat Senators have no excuse for voting against the motion to proceed onto these bills today. To do so would be to side with liberal extremist groups like La Raza in support of open borders policies that threaten Americans’ safety and our national sovereignty.
Heritage Action supports both Senator Toomey’s Stop Dangerous Sanctuary Cities Act, S. 3100, and Senator Cruz’s Stop Illegal Reentry Act (Kate’s Law), S. 2193, and will include these votes on our legislative scorecard.