WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump is urging the House to pass legislation that would stiffen punishments on people who re-enter the U.S. illegally and for "sanctuary" jurisdictions that refuse to cooperate with federal deportation forces.
To highlight the bills up for vote Thursday, the president met with more than a dozen people whose loved ones were killed by people in the country illegally. They included Jamiel Shaw Sr., whose 17-year-old son was shot and killed in California in 2008 by a man in the country illegally.
"He was living the dream," Shaw said during the emotional discussion, "that was squashed out."
Shaw was a frequent speaker at Trump's campaign events, where the president often railed against illegal immigration — a key issue for his voting base.
Trump is pushing for passage of two pieces of legislation. "Kate's Law" would impose harsher mandatory minimum prison sentences on deportees who re-enter the United States, with stronger penalty increases for those who have been convicted of non-immigration crimes.
The bill was named after 32-year old Kathryn Steinle, who also was shot and killed in California in 2015 by a man who was in the country illegally. Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez, who pleaded not guilty to the crime, had been released by sheriff's officials months earlier despite a request by immigration officials to keep him behind bars.
A second bill, "No Sanctuary for Criminals Act," would bar states and localities that refuse to cooperate with immigration authorities from receiving certain Department of Justice and Department of Homeland Security grants, including some related to law enforcement and terrorism.
The Justice Department's inspector general previously identified the state of California and major cities like Chicago, New York and Philadelphia as having barriers to information-sharing among local police and immigration officials. The Trump administration warned nine jurisdictions in late April that they could lose coveted law enforcement grant money unless they document cooperation.
Trump argued the bills would close "dangerous loopholes exploited by criminals, gang members, drug dealers, killers, terrorists," and told the family members gathered that they'd "lost the people that you love because our government refused to enforce our nation's immigration laws."
But Lorella Praeli, the director of immigration policy at the American Civil Liberties Union, criticized the bills, saying they were "riddled with constitutional violations that completely disregard the civil and human rights of immigrants."
"Despite claims to the contrary," she said in a statement, the bills would "make our communities less safe by undermining the trust that law enforcement builds with its communities — citizen and immigrant alike."
Local officials, including Kevin de Leon, the leader of California's state Senate, and New York City's police commissioner, have also denounced efforts to strip their funding, with de Leon accusing the administration of basing its policies on "principles of white supremacy" and not American values.
But Thomas Homan, the acting director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said that cities that don't cooperate with his agents put the lives of the public and law enforcement officers at risk.
"If you enter this country illegally and violate the laws of this nation, you should not be comfortable..... you should be concerned that someone is looking for you. You should be concerned because you violated the laws of this country," he said, adding of the risk of separating families: "U.S. citizen families get separated every day when a parent or when a parent gets arrested for a criminal charge. So those here illegally, they put themselves in that position."
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