New York Times
By EMMARIE HUETTEMAN and NICHOLAS KULISH
June 29, 2017
WASHINGTON — The House on Thursday voted to crack down on undocumented immigrants and localities that shelter them, approving two bills President Trump has championed but that are certain to meet resistance in the Senate.
The legislation from the Republican-controlled House would increase prison sentences for those re-entering the country illegally and pressure so-called sanctuary cities to comply with federal immigration officials, including through cutting federal funds.
While the measures gave the president a modest, if predictable, win, they would need Democratic support to clear the Senate’s 60-vote threshold, an unlikely prospect.
As Senate Republicans worked on the other side of the Capitol to salvage their health care bill and notch their first major legislative victory of Mr. Trump’s presidency, House Republicans trumpeted the immigration-related bills as common-sense measures to bolster public safety.
John F. Kelly, the secretary of homeland security, made an unusual appearance at the Capitol to praise the bills. He criticized sanctuary cities — a broad term for localities that limit how local law enforcement officials cooperate with federal immigration officials — saying they prioritize “criminals over public and law enforcement officer safety.”
“It is beyond my comprehension why federal, state and local officials sworn to enforce the laws of the nation, as I am, would actively discourage or outright prevent law enforcement agencies from upholding the laws of the United States,” Mr. Kelly told reporters.
The bills touch on immigration issues that were central to Mr. Trump’s presidential campaign that he has revisited as president and tried to address through executive action. On Wednesday, meeting with families of victims of crimes committed by unauthorized immigrants, Mr. Trump called on lawmakers to pass the bills.
It was unclear what the fate of the bills would be on the Senate side, though it appeared unlikely senators would pass them as-is. Joe Manchin III of West Virginia, one of the few Democrats who voted for similar legislation in recent years, said he would need to review the House legislation before committing.
Senator John Cornyn of Texas, the No. 2 Republican, is working on a broader border security bill that would incorporate aspects of both House immigration bills, including defunding sanctuary cities, two Senate aides said.
One of the House bills, known as the No Sanctuary for Criminals Act, potentially broadens the pool of money that cities could lose for not cooperating with federal immigration officials. It also seeks to indemnify local law enforcement officials who detain immigrants on behalf of the federal authorities from lawsuits, making the federal government the defendant in such cases. The bill passed 228-195.
In April, a judge in San Francisco temporarily blocked an executive order issued by Mr. Trump that would have tied billions of dollars in federal funding to localities’ willingness to cooperate with immigration enforcement.
Last month, Attorney General Jeff Sessions clarified the order in a way that narrowed both the definition of sanctuary cities and the federal funds they might lose by failing to share information about people’s immigration status with the federal authorities.
The other bill, known as Kate’s Law, stiffens penalties for immigrants guilty of felony re-entry. The bill is named for Kathryn Steinle, who was shot to death in San Francisco in 2015, reportedly by a Mexican laborer who had been deported multiple times and was in the United States illegally. The bill passed 257-167, with 24 Democrats joining Republicans in supporting the measure.
Saturday is the second anniversary of Ms. Steinle’s death. Her parents sued the San Francisco Sheriff’s Department, as well as Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the federal Bureau of Land Management. In January, a judge dismissed the case against the sheriff’s department and ICE, but allowed the case against the Bureau of Land Management to continue.
Mr. Trump, who started his presidential campaign just weeks before Ms. Steinle was killed, pointed to the case at the time as “yet another example of why we must secure our border immediately.”
On Thursday, Speaker Paul D. Ryan said the House measures would aim to prevent deaths like Ms. Steinle’s, adding that had the gunman not been in the United States, she would not have been killed.
“He should not have been here,” he said. “And she should not have died.”
Democrats criticized the measures for cutting critical funding for law enforcement and demonizing immigrants.
“This bill perpetuates the fiction that immigrants are inherently criminal,” said Representative John Conyers Jr. of Michigan, the top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee.
Some law enforcement officials have also expressed concerns with the legislation. The National Fraternal Order of Police came out against the sanctuary cities bill this week. In a letter to House leadership, the group’s national president, Chuck Canterbury, said, “Law enforcement officers do not get to pick and choose which laws to enforce, and must carry out lawful orders at the direction of their commanders and the civilian government that employs them.”
And the American Civil Liberties Union said the sanctuary cities bill violates the Fourth Amendment by requiring local law enforcement to hold people without due process or probable cause when requested immigration agents.
“These bills are riddled with constitutional violations that completely disregard the civil and human rights of immigrants,” Lorella Praeli, the group’s director of immigration policy and campaigns, said in a statement.
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