While Republicans have rallied to find a legislative response to the murder of Kathryn Steinle, Politico reports that Senate Judiciary Republicans are divided on efforts to attach mandatory sentences to illegal immigrants who re-enter the U.S. following a deportation.
Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) would like to see legislation that would impose a mandatory minimum of five years on illegal immigrants who re-enter the country illegally after being deported. Last month Cruz introduced “Kate’s Law” that would apply such minimums.
Meanwhile, Politico reports that Sens. Mike Lee (R-UT) and Jeff Flake (R-AZ), as critics of mandatory minimums for certain nonviolent crimes, are wary of applying them to illegal immigrants as well.
“That would not be something that I would be recommending,” Politico quoted Flake on five year minimums for re-entry. “There may be some ways to accommodate some of those concerns, but not with mandatory minimums like that.”
Steinle’s murder in the sanctuary city of San Francisco — allegedly at the hands of a multiple deportee, illegal immigrant with a lengthy rap sheet — has spurred the effort to apply more aggressive punishments to illegal immigrants who return to the U.S. illegally after a previous deportation as well as moves to crack down on sanctuary cities that do not cooperate with federal immigration authorities.
Complicating matters for the GOP is its small 11-9 majority in the Senate Judiciary Committee. As Politico notes, the margin leaves little room for Republican dissent in committee.
According to Politico, Lee has so far been unwavering from his opposition to including mandatory minimums and has said he would oppose legislation that includes such a provision.
“We have to have enough votes to get a bill out of committee, and we’ll have to deal with that when we deal with it,” Grassley said. “I can’t control anybody else’s vote and there’s other things other than just mandatory minimums that are important to get done so that’s what we’re gonna have to do.”
Another Senate Judiciary Committee member, Sen. Thom Tillis expressed openness to both sides, but rationalized that concern over mandatory minimums is best reserved for U.S. citizens, not illegal immigrants.
“These are noncitizens violating our immigration laws,” Politico quoted Tillis. “I think you can hold them to a different standard. Some may think it’s a conflict; I look at these as people illegally entering and re-entering the country, and that’s why I’m able to rationalize.”
Last month the House passed legislation cracking down on sanctuary cities by restricting their federal law enforcement grants.