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The House can bolster immigration enforcement by passing two bills

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House Republicans are working diligently to deliver on our promises made to the American people. This week, we will take the first step in our commitment to strengthen immigration enforcement and secure the border by voting on two simple, straightforward bills in the House of Representatives. These bills, the No Sanctuary for Criminals Act and Kate’s Law, target dangerous sanctuary city policies that permit criminals to go free and bolster public safety by enhancing penalties for deported felons who return to the U.S. These pieces of legislation are needed desperately.

For years, the lack of immigration enforcement and the spread of dangerous sanctuary policies have failed the American people and cost too many lives, including Kate Steinle, Sarah Root and Grant Ronnebeck.

{mosads}Two years ago, Kate Steinle was taking a stroll with her father in San Francisco when Juan Francisco Sanchez-Lopez fired a stolen gun and struck and killed Kate. Sanchez-Lopez should have never been in the United States and he should not have been on the streets of San Francisco. He had already been deported five times and had multiple felony convictions. Despite his extensive rap sheet, he was released by San Francisco authorities prior to shooting Kate.

In January 2016, Edwin Mejia, an unlawful immigrant driving drunk and street racing, struck Sarah Root’s car and subsequently killed her. She had just graduated from college with a 4.0 grade point average. To make matters worse, Mejia was released from state custody and is still on the loose. Sarah Root’s mom testified that the suspect’s bond was less than the cost of her daughter’s funeral.

And in January 2015, Grant Ronnebeck, a 21-year-old store clerk at a convenience store in Arizona, was shot and killed over a pack of cigarettes by a convicted felon, Apolinar Altamirano, who was free on bond while facing deportation.

The deaths of innocent Americans like Kate, Sarah, Grant, and too many others, are tragic. Their deaths are especially devastating since they could have been prevented if our immigration laws had been enforced. We must take action to honor the memory of those who have lost their lives and prevent these senseless crimes from happening to others.

To do just that, the House will vote on the No Sanctuary for Criminals Act. This bill strengthens the law to combat dangerous sanctuary policies that shield unlawful and criminal immigrants from federal immigration enforcement. Specifically, it clarifies U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detainer authority—the tool used by federal immigration enforcement officers to pick up criminal aliens from local jails—by establishing statutory probable cause standards to issue detainers for the first time. By providing a rigorous standard for ICE to meet before placing the detainer, the bill both protects civil liberties and fortifies the legal sufficiency of detainers.

The bill also protects jurisdictions that comply with detainers from being sued—a real problem that many cities, who in good faith are trying to follow the law, have faced. And it allows victims of crime to sue jurisdictions that refuse to comply and subsequently release criminal aliens onto the streets who then commit crimes that harm these victims.

To further compel cities to comply with the law, the No Sanctuary for Criminals Act withholds certain federal law enforcement and homeland security grants from jurisdictions that prohibit their officers from cooperating with ICE in violation of long-standing federal law. 

The No Sanctuary for Criminals Act also contains Sarah and Grant’s Law, named after Sarah Root and Grant Ronnebeck. This provision ensures unlawful immigrants convicted of drunk driving or arrested for other dangerous crimes are detained during their removal proceedings.

Additionally, the House will vote on Kate’s Law, named after Kate Steinle. Kate’s Law protects public safety by enhancing penalties for deported felons who illegally reenter the United States. It raises the maximum sentence for criminal aliens who come back to the United States after being removed, representing a true deterrent for criminals seeking to break the law yet again.

We have much work to do to make our immigration system work better for America. For example, we need to enact the comprehensive reforms contained in the Davis-Oliver Act to further increase public safety, secure the border, strengthen national security, and restore the rule of law. But the No Sanctuary for Criminals Act and Kate’s Law are a good first step toward addressing urgent problems facing our nation. We owe it to the families of those who have lost loved ones to take action to prevent such horrible crimes. They have waited far too long.

Representative Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) is Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, which has jurisdiction over U.S. immigration law. He is also the sponsor of the No Sanctuary for Criminals Act and Kate’s Law.

The views expressed by this author are their own and are not the views of The Hill.

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