WASHINGTON — The Republican-led House June 29 pressed ahead with legislation to crack down on illegal immigration, a key priority for President Donald Trump.
One bill would strip federal dollars from self-proclaimed “sanctuary” cities that shield residents from federal immigration authorities, while a separate bill would stiffen punishments for people who re-enter the U.S. illegally.
Trump often railed against illegal immigration during his presidential campaign, and his support for tougher immigration policies is crucial to his voting base. Trump met at the White House June 28 with more than a dozen people whose family members were killed by people in the country illegally, and Attorney General Jeff Sessions is set to meet with the families as well.
One of the bills, known as “Kate’s Law,” would impose harsher prison sentences on deportees who re-enter the United States. The bill is named after 32-year old Kathryn Steinle, who was shot and killed in California in 2015 by a man who was in the country illegally.
A second bill would bar states and localities that refuse to cooperate with immigration authorities from receiving certain Justice Department and Homeland Security grants, including some related to law enforcement and terrorism.
Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly said he appreciates Congress’ effort to “address the dangers of sanctuary cities and illegal immigrant offenders.”
At a news conference at the Capitol with House Speaker Paul Ryan, Kelly said his agency “will enforce the laws that are passed by Congress,” adding: “I am offended when members of this institution put pressure and often threaten me and my officers to ignore the laws they make.”
Kelly did not elaborate on what threats or pressure he was referring to.
The Justice Department’s inspector general has identified California and major cities such as Chicago, New York and Philadelphia as locales with barriers to information-sharing among local police and immigration officials. The Trump administration warned nine jurisdictions in late April that they could lose coveted law enforcement grant money unless they document cooperation.
The Asian Americans Advancing Justice, an affiliation of five civil rights organizations, in a June 28 statement in response to the two bills, said it strongly opposes both H.R. 3003 and H.R. 3004 “and the passage of any immigration enforcement legislation that would increase indiscriminate enforcement, further the criminalization of immigrants and instill more fear in already terrified communities.”
It noted that roughly 40 percent of all immigrants come to the U.S. from Asia, and 1.6 million of those immigrants are undocumented.
“Anti-immigrant policies create a climate of fear for all immigrants, regardless of status,” the organization said.
“We are horrified and dismayed that House leadership has chosen to line up behind the administration in its scapegoating of immigrants,” it added. “Both of these bills further the administration’s goals of criminalizing all immigrants.”
The bills are scheduled to be voted on by the end of the month.