Dems will press for no votes on ‘Kate’s Law’ –– but not too hard

Victoria Sarno Jordan
House Democratic leaders will encourage their troops to oppose the Republicans’ crackdown on so-called sanctuary cities this week, but members will face less pressure on “Kate’s Law,” the leaders indicated Tuesday.
“Kate’s Law is a little more complicated,” Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), the Democratic whip, told reporters in the Capitol Tuesday morning. “I’m advising members to look at it carefully and see what their conclusion is.”
Hours later, Hoyer and the Democrats decided they would whip opposition to the legislation when it hits the floor later this week. But they’re not twisting arms, due to the politically fraught nature of the illegal immigration issue, which could prove a tough vote for vulnerable Democrats.
Sponsored by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), “Kate’s Law” would hike criminal penalties for undocumented immigrants who have been convicted of certain crimes, deported and then re-enter the United States illegally. The bill is named after Kathryn Steinle, 32, who was fatally shot in 2015 while walking with her father along San Francisco’s touristy waterfront.
The suspect in the case, Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez, had seven previous felony convictions and was deported to Mexico on five previous occasions.
On the campaign trail, President Trump had invoked the shooting in promoting his law-and-order approach to immigration reform. And House Republicans are hoping to provide an assist this week when the bill hits the floor.
Hoyer said the GOP proposal has flaws –– particularly as it relates to those immigrants seeking asylum –– and he lamented the closed process that prevents Democrats from offering amendments. 
Still, Democrats won’t apply a full-court press as they whip against “Kate’s Law,” given the emotional forces underlying the Steinle tragedy and others like it.
Hoyer suggested the “public’s perception of allowing people to come back in, commit crimes and not have a more serious sentence” could harm vulnerable Democrats.
“You talk to the families who have been adversely affected by that, it is a wrenching experience,” he said Tuesday morning.
“Members believe that that’s pretty serious business, [and] I agree with that.”
The Republicans’ sanctuary cities bill is another story: Democrats will whip harder against the proposal, a leadership aide said.
Also sponsored by Goodlatte, the legislation would withhold certain federal grants from states, cities and law enforcement agencies that refuse to cooperate with federal officials in the detention or transfer of undocumented criminals. The bill would also require that undocumented immigrants convicted of drunk driving or arrested for “a particularly serious crime” be detained while they go through the deportation process. 
Supporters of the bill contend the changes are needed to help federal immigration officers enforce the law.
Hoyer and most Democrats disagree, arguing that the sanctuary laws are necessary to foster trust between local police and members of the community who might otherwise be wary of cooperating with law enforcers for fear of being deported.
“If you have crime and people who are victims of crime are afraid to come forward and report that, then law enforcement believes it is undermining its ability to keep safe neighborhoods and safe communities,” he said.
Updated at 6:20 p.m.
Tags Bob Goodlatte
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