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By Juliegrace Brufke
House Republicans praised the passage of two bills aimed at cracking down on sanctuary cities Thursday, saying they believe the changes are necessary to ensure the safety of American citizens.
The No Sanctuary for Criminals Act and Kate’s Law both take strides to protect people from becoming victims of crimes committed by undocumented immigrants, according to GOP Rep. Martha Roby of Alabama. If the measures pass the upper chamber, sanctuary cities — which don’t require law enforcement officers to cooperate with immigration authorities — would lose access to taxpayer-funded federal grants if they don’t comply with the law. Additionally, illegal immigrants would be unable to reenter the country if found guilty of certain offenses.
“Sanctuary cities are magnets for illegal immigrants including some dangerous people with criminal records,” Roby told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “Right now, there’s more than 140 jurisdictions in six states that are actively obstructing enforcement of federal immigration laws with sanctuary policies and so, this process puts Americans at risk and I believe the federal government should do all that we can to discourage this.”
Tennessee Republican Rep. Marsha Blackburn echoed Roby’s sentiments, saying it’s unacceptable certain jurisdictions refuse to comply with the law.
“Well, it is important because the American people have said that it is important. And we know for our nation’s sovereignty, it is important. We have laws. We are a nation of laws,” she told TheDCNF. “We are to abide by these laws. And the fact is that you have some cities and entities that have decided that they want to just do something outside of the law and say it’s OK.”
Citing the death of Kate Steinle — a 32-year-old California native who was allegedly shot by an illegal alien with a criminal record who was previously deported five times — proponents of the bills said stronger penalties for those residing in the country illegally with a history of violent crimes are long overdue.
“You know, when you look at the legislation you look at the penalties that are in place — you’ve got penalties that are a maximum 10 or 20 or 25 years for people that have committed felonies that have come into the country, and they are re-entering for the third time,” Blackburn said.
Critics of the No Sanctuary for Criminals Act argue it makes law enforcement officials’ jobs more difficult since illegal immigrants may be disincentivized to report crimes due to fears of deportation.
“This bill demonizes immigrants, punishes communities that seek to build trust between immigrants and law enforcement and allows indefinite detention, all while making us less safe,” New York Democrat Rep. Jerry Nadler said on the House floor.
Blackburn said Democrats’ argument the bill could lead to an increase in crime is not a valid criticism.
“It is not going to cause people to not report crime. It is going to give the assurance to people who do report crime that something will be done about it. I think it will encourage people to report crime,” she said. “What causes people to not report crime is that they are fearful that nothing’s going to be done and then somebody will seek retribution on them. People want to know what the rules are. They want to know what the laws are, and then they want everybody to play by those rules and abide by those laws.”
President Donald Trump took to social media after the vote to encourage members of the upper chamber to quickly pass the legislation.