House passes bills to enhance penalties for deported felons

The bills combat sanctuary city policies that permit illegal immigrant criminals to go free

By Tom Waring

The Times

U.S. Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-8th dist.), a member of the Homeland Security Committee, joined the House of Representatives in passing two bills intended to strengthen public safety by combating sanctuary city policies that permit illegal immigrant criminals to go free and by enhancing penalties for deported felons who return to the United States.

Photo: U.S. Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick

“Left, right or center, we can all agree that our immigration system is broken, and, given that broken status, it’s the responsibility of this body to fix it. This goal cannot be achieved by selectively choosing which laws we enforce, and which ones we ignore,” said Fitzpatrick, speaking on the House floor. “As a former FBI agent, I worked each day to defend Americans and keep our nation safe. As a federal prosecutor, I prosecuted cases that resulted in the removal of violent felons who were in our country illegally, in order to keep our communities safe. I have seen firsthand the threats our nation faces from a fragmented and broken immigration system and a porous border. We cannot and must not allow partisanship to prevent sensible fixes from being implemented. Our nation’s security depends on us.”

Kate’s Law passed, 257–167. It was supported by 233 Republicans and 24 Democrats, and opposed by 166 Democrats and one Republican.

The bill enhances penalties for deported felons who return to the United States. It is inspired by Kate Steinle, who was shot to death in 2015 in San Francisco by an illegal Mexican immigrant using a stolen gun. Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez, the alleged killer, had seven prior felony convictions and had been deported five times, only to return each time.

The No Sanctuary for Criminals Act passed, 228–195. It was supported by 225 Republicans and three Democrats, and opposed by 188 Democrats and seven Republicans.

The act withholds certain federal grants from jurisdictions that violate federal law by prohibiting their officers from communicating with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. It protects jurisdictions that comply with detainers from being sued, while allowing victims of crime to sue jurisdictions that refuse to comply and subsequently release criminal aliens onto the streets.

The act also contains Sarah and Grant’s Law, which ensures unlawful immigrants convicted of drunken driving or arrested for other dangerous crimes are detained during their removal proceedings. The provision is named after Sarah Root and Grant Ronnebeck.

Last year, an illegal Honduran immigrant allegedly driving drunk and street racing struck Root’s car as it was stopped at a red light in Nebraska and killed her. Eswin Mejia was arrested, released on bail, then disappeared and remains on the loose.

In 2015, Ronnebeck was shot to death while working at an Arizona convenience store by an illegal Mexican immigrant who was free on bond while facing deportation for a felony burglary conviction.

Both bills, authored by Virginia Republican Rep. Bob Goodlatte, move to the Senate. ••