Making America safer for all

Published 3:00 am Wednesday, July 5, 2017

As I wrote in March, the Judiciary Committee has prioritized cracking down on “sanctuary city” policies that endanger Americans by obstructing federal authorities from enforcing immigration laws. I’m proud to report that the full House of Representatives has now passed our legislation cutting off taxpayer funded grants to sanctuary cities and strengthening penalties for dangerous illegal immigrants who persist in breaking our laws.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents depend on cooperation from state and local authorities to enforce immigration laws. The vast majority of arrests happen at the local or state level; if an undocumented person is detained by police, ICE agents often request access to interview the detainee to determine legal status and deport them, if necessary.

However, there are more than 140 jurisdictions and six states with policies designed to help detainees elude federal authorities and avoid deportation. For example, the City of San Francisco prohibits its police force from cooperating with ICE by denying them access to detained illegal immigrants. That greatly hinders the ability of federal authorities to do their job and enforce the law.

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The No Sanctuary for Criminals Act would prohibit cities and states from implementing these sanctuary policies and make jurisdictions that do ineligible for grants through the Department of Justice and Department of Homeland Security. The bill also authorizes the Secretary of Homeland Security to issue detainers for arrested individuals with probable cause that they are in the country illegally. Sanctuary cities put American lives at risk, and we are not going to reward that with taxpayer dollars. I believe this legislation can serve as a strong deterrent to any other cities or states considering such bad policies in the future. 

Discouraging dangerous policy is important, but our laws must also include strict penalties for criminals themselves. That’s why I’m pleased the House also passed Kate’s Law, named for Kate Steinle, a young San Francisco woman who was shot and killed by an illegal immigrant in 2015. The accused killer, Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez, had seven other felony convictions and had been previously deported five times. Yet, at the time of the shooting, he had been released from a San Francisco jail over the objections of ICE officials.

It is unconscionable to think our system has failed so badly that innocent people like Kate and others have been the victims of violent crimes by illegal immigrants who never should have been on the street. Americans are rightly outraged by this, and we are working to put a stop to it. Kate’s Law raises the maximum sentences for criminal aliens who illegally reenter the United States to create a true deterrent against those who persist in breaking our laws. 

Of course, our action does not come without criticism. I was recently asked if I believe these bills would allow too much overreach by federal agencies into state and local decisions. As a conservative, I certainly appreciate concerns about federal overreach. However, Congress has a constitutional responsibility to enact immigration laws and see that they are enforced. If anything, I believe the federal government hasn’t done enough to get our illegal immigration problem under control.

Other critics say sanctuary policies are simply compensating for our flawed and outdated immigration laws. While I agree that our immigration system is broken and needs to be reformed, border security and strict enforcement must come first. Obstructing federal agents from deporting illegal immigrants – sometimes dangerous people with criminal records – puts our communities at risk, and I believe Congress should do all it can to stop it. The safety and security of Americans should be our top priority.

House passage of the No Sanctuary for Criminals Act and Kate’s Law show how Congress is working with Attorney General Jeff Sessions and the Trump Administration to make America safer.