Senate Has Not Voted On ‘Kate’s Law’ Five Months After It Passed House With Bipartisan Support

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Will Racke Immigration and Foreign Policy Reporter
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The Senate has yet to take up a bill that would toughen penalties for illegal aliens who re-enter the country after being deported, almost five months after the measure passed the House in a bipartisan vote.

In June, the House approved “Kate’s Law,” a Trump administration-backed bill that would raise the maximum prison sentence for illegal aliens caught re-entering the U.S. following deportation and increasing penalties for repeat offenders.

The bill is named after Kate Steinle, the woman who was shot and killed when an illegal immigrant, Jose Ines Garcia Zarate, discharged a firearm on the San Francisco pier in 2015. Zarate, a Mexican national who had been deported five times, was acquitted Thursday of Steinle’s murder as well as involuntary manslaughter and assault with a deadly weapon. (RELATED: Jury Finds Illegal Immigrant NOT GUILTY In Kate Steinle Murder)

The shooting sparked a nationwide debate over sanctuary city policies and later became a key refrain in President Donald Trump’s promises to crack down on illegal immigration.

This summer, GOP Rep. Bob Goodlatte of Virginia introduced “Kate’s Law” to near-universal Republican approval. The bill also received backing across the aisle, with 24 Democrats voting yes in a floor vote on June 29.

In the wake of Zarate’s acquittal, conservative activists and immigration hawks are likely to pressure Senate lawmakers to take up the bill in the next legislative session. Trump has also seized on the verdict to attack Democrats, tweeting Friday that the party would “pay a big price” in the midterm elections for failing to support tougher immigration policies.

An earlier version of Kate’s Law was considered by the Senate in 2016, it but failed to get to the 60-vote threshold needed to overcome a Democratic filibuster. Only three Democrats — Indiana Sen. Joe Donnelly, North Dakota Sen. Heidi Heitkamp and West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin — voted with Republicans.

Since then, electoral circumstances have changed in favor of passing Kate’s Law. In addition to Manchin, Heitkamp and Donnelly, seven other Democratic senators are up for re-election in states that Trump won in 2016, which could motivate them to support some aspects of Trump’s immigration agenda in order to shore up political support at home.

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