Kate Steinle became a household name in 2015 after the 32-year old was shot and killed by an illegal immigrant in San Francisco. It was a horrific event that shined light on some serious flaws in our nation’s immigration system.
The man who killed her, Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez, was in our country illegally. Making matters worse, he had already been deported five times and had been convicted of seven felonies. He had no business being in the United States.
San Francisco, where the shooting occurred, is a sanctuary city, meaning they do not cooperate with federal law enforcement officials when it comes to immigration law. Lopez-Sanchez likely felt safe in San Francisco due to their lax immigration laws, even though he was a convicted felon with multiple deportations on his record.
The story of Kate Steinle is just the most high profile example of the problems with the U.S. immigration system, but there are many other horrible stories out there. Our top priority as a federal government should always be to keep citizens safe, and that includes monitoring and controlling who we allow into our country.
Recently, the House of Representatives took action on two important bills to address some of the issues with our broken immigration system. Both bills were strongly supported by President Donald Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who have made enforcing our immigration laws a top priority.
The first bill, the No Sanctuary for Criminals Act, deals directly with the so-called sanctuary cities. Under the legislation, certain federal funding would be cut to cities and counties that refuse to comply with federal law enforcement officials when it comes to immigration law.
In other words, if a city refuses to enforce our federal immigration laws, they should not be receiving millions of dollars in federal funding. These cities must be held responsible for their reckless policies that endanger their citizens.
Under President Barack Obama, I often heard examples of cities or counties who were attempting to enforce immigration laws, but they could not get the help and support they needed from federal officials. Well, under Attorney General Jeff Sessions that is changing. Federal immigration officials are cracking down on law breakers in our country illegally, and they deserve help and support from all our local officials.
The second bill, known as Kate’s Law, increases the criminal penalties for deported felons who returned to the United States. Like Kate’s killer, illegal immigrants who are convicted of felonies must face severe consequences if they choose to illegally reenter our country again.
This bill actually drew some bipartisan support from Democrats, which demonstrates that this is not just some partisan issue. Frankly, how could anyone not support increasing penalties for convicted felons who continue to break the law and put the American people at risk?
These two bills are now headed to the Senate for consideration, and I urge the Senate to act swiftly on the bills. I have no doubt that, if enacted into law, these bills would protect American lives and make our country a safer place.
When it comes to combatting illegal immigration, we cannot just stop with these two bills. We must also take action to secure our borders, improve internal security, and close loopholes in various immigration programs.
I am committed to working with President Trump to push through the strong immigration policies that he was elected to implement. This is all about the safety and security of the American people, and there is no greater responsibility than that.
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Bradley Byrne is a member of U.S. Congress representing Alabama’s 1st Congressional District.