House Passes Two Trump-Backed Immigration Bills

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Will Racke Immigration and Foreign Policy Reporter
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The U.S. House of Representatives passed a pair of immigration enforcement bills Thursday that implement key pieces of President Donald Trump’s immigration agenda, giving the White House a legislative win after a major setback to its effort to pass a health care reform bill.

In the final vote before Congress adjourns for the July 4 recess, House Republicans advanced the “No Sanctuary for Criminals Act” and “Kate’s Law.” The bills are separate measures introduced by Virginia Rep. Bob Goodlatte that would punish sanctuary cities and criminal aliens who re-enter the U.S. after being deported.

The “No Sanctuary” bill authorizes the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security to withhold grants from cities and states that refuse to comply with federal immigration law or honor immigration detention requests. It also extends mandatory detention periods for certain categories of illegal aliens, including those arrested for drunk driving.

“Kate’s Law” raises the maximum prison sentences for illegal aliens caught re-entering the U.S. following deportation, with increasing penalties for repeat offenders. The bill is named after Kate Steinle, who was killed in San Francisco by a previously deported illegal immigrant, and whose name Trump has repeatedly invoked during calls for tougher immigration enforcement.

Trump, who has made cracking down on illegal immigration the centerpiece of his policy agenda, heaped praise on the bills in the run-up to the vote. At the White House Wednesday, he met with the victims of crimes perpetrated by illegal immigrants, and called on Congress to advance the bills to his desk as soon as possible. (RELATED: Parents Of Children Killed By Illegal Immigrants Tell Lawmakers ‘Blood’ Is On Their Hands If They Don’t Act)

“You lost the people that you love because our government refused to enforce our nation’s immigration laws, and that’s including the existing immigration laws,” Trump told the family members gathered in the White House Cabinet room.

While the bills were widely expected to pass the Republican-controlled House, they are a welcome win for a White House that has seen little recent legislative success. Victory in the House comes two days after the GOP health care reform bill stalled in the Senate, dealing a major blow to another of Trump’s signature campaign promises: repealing Obamacare. (RELATED: Trump Looks For Easy Win On Immigration After Health Care Delay)

With the health care bill on hold, the administration quickly pivoted to immigration, pressuring lawmakers to pass the House bills. In an op-ed for Fox News, Attorney General Jeff Sessions urged Congress to “send a clear message” on illegal immigration, and Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly appeared Thursday with House Republicans on Capitol Hill to support the legislation in the hours before the vote.

Some groups that favor less immigration were disappointed that lawmakers weren’t taking up the Davis-Oliver Act, a more comprehensive enforcement bill that has already been approved by the House Judiciary Committee.

That proposal includes all of the provisions in the “No Sanctuary” and “Kate’s Law” bills, and also provides for the hiring of over 10,000 new immigration officers, allows local law enforcement personnel to enforce immigration law and authorizes deportation of all immigrants — legal and illegal — who are members of criminal gangs. (RELATED: Congress’ Toughest Immigration Bill Is Still Waiting In The Wings)

Mark Krikorian, the executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, told The Daily Caller that the House bills are a good “starting point” to get to the enforcement provisions of Davis-Oliver.

“Kate’s Law is pretty narrow, but the No Sanctuary bill really moves the ball forward — it’s not a touchdown, like the Davis-Oliver Act would be, but it’s a solid first down,” Krikorian wrote in an email to TheDC.

The bills now move to the Senate, where Republicans will have to convince at least eight Democrats to break party ranks if the measures are to make it to the Oval Office for Trump’s signature. Last year, Kate’s Law received the support of three Democratic votes — Indiana Sen. Joe Donnelly, North Dakota Sen. Heidi Heitkamp and West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin — but failed to get the 60 total votes needed to advance.

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