By MATTHEW DALY
WASHINGTON — Warning of threats to public safety and national security, the Republican-led House on Thursday approved two bills to crack down on illegal immigration, a key priority for President Donald Trump.
One bill would strip federal dollars from self-proclaimed “sanctuary” cities that shield residents from federal immigration authorities, while a separate measure would stiffen punishments for people who re-enter the U.S. illegally.
The sanctuary measure was approved 228-195, while the bill to punish deportees was approved 257-167.
Trump often railed against illegal immigration during his presidential campaign, and his support for tougher immigration policies is crucial to his voting base. Trump met at the White House on Wednesday with more than a dozen people whose family members were killed by people in the country illegally, and Attorney General Jeff Sessions met with the families Thursday.
One of the bills, known as “Kate’s Law,” would impose harsher prison sentences on deportees who re-enter the United States. The bill is named after 32-year old Kathryn Steinle, who was shot and killed in San Francisco 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 would bar states and localities that refuse to cooperate with immigration authorities from receiving certain Justice Department and Homeland Security grants, including some related to law enforcement and terrorism.
Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said the two bills would help “avoid the kind of tragic circumstances that have totally involved the lives of the people who were at the White House … speaking up for their loved ones.”
The sanctuary measure follows “a simple principle that if you’re going to receive taxpayer dollars from the federal government to keep people safe, that you’ve got to follow the law and keep them safe,” Goodlatte said.
Democrats said the bills were feel-good measures intended to make lawmakers look tough on crime.