Trump-backed immigration bills approved by House

WASHINGTON — In largely party-line votes, the House passed two bills Thursday intended to allow for stronger punishments for people who have entered the U.S. illegally and to take federal funding away from "sanctuary cities" that do not enforce federal immigration laws.

"The implementation of these policies will make our communities safer," President Trump said in a statement celebrating the passing of the bills. "Opposing these bills, and allowing dangerous criminals back into our communities, our schools, and the neighborhoods where our children play, puts all of us at risk."

"These were bills I campaigned on and that are vital to our public safety and national security," Trump said.

The bills are a “vital first step in fixing our broken immigration system,” Rep. Raul Labrador, R-Idaho, told reporters Thursday morning ahead of the vote. Labrador is the chairman of the Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security.

Kate’s Law is named after Kate Steinle, who was shot and killed in San Francisco in by an undocumented immigrant who had a criminal record and had previously been deported. The law would allow for harsher punishments for those who enter the country illegally after being deported.

“(Her killer) should not have been here and she should not have died,” House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., told reporters.

The second bill — No Sanctuary for Criminals Act — withholds federal money from cities that limit their cooperation with immigration laws. If passed, the legislation would allow for federal grants to be withheld from cities that refuse to comply with federal immigration orders. San Francisco is a sanctuary city.

“Sanctuary cities are anything but safe,” Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly said Thursday, praising the expected passage of the bills in the House.

Ryan celebrated their passage Thursday evening.

Both pieces of legislation represent a step forward on President Trump’s immigration agenda. He repeatedly talked about Steinle and others who had been killed by undocumented immigrants during the election and campaigned with some of their family members.

Trump met with families of victims who had been killed by undocumented immigrants at the White House on Wednesday.

Kate's Law passed with the support of 24 Democrats and all Republicans but Rep. Justin Amash, R-Mich., who frequently breaks with his party. No Sanctuary for Criminals Act had less support from Democrats — just three supported that bill — and seven Republicans also rejected the legislation. 

Rep. Raul Grijalva, D-Ariz., told USA TODAY he found it "curious and hypocritical that the Republican majority want these two bills ... (at) the same time they're the people who rail against government overreach."

Grijalva is a member of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, which came out against the bills, saying they would "undercut law enforcement’s ability to keep communities safe, undermine Constitutional protections, and criminalize immigrants."

Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee — where the bills came from — criticized the bills Thursday. Democrats said the bills represented "another step in President Trump’s Mass Deportation plan."

And described Kate's Law as "a draconian enforcement scheme with no exceptions."

The Fraternal Order of Police issued a letter Tuesday urging Congress to reject the sanctuary cities bill, saying it would punish local law enforcement agencies for carrying out the mandates of the local governments they work for.

The pair of bills face a steeper road in the Senate, where Republicans have a slim 52-48 majority. Legislation in the Senate requires 60 votes to pass, meaning at least eight Democrats would have to sign on to pass either bill.

© 2017 USATODAY.COM


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