U.S. House to vote on controversial immigration bills, ahead of SB4 hearing

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)
Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — The United States House of Representatives will vote Thursday on two immigration bills that aim at cracking down on illegal immigration.

The “No Sanctuary for Criminals Act” would create harsher penalties for sanctuary cities. The legislation is aimed at so-called sanctuary cities that limit their cooperation with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and federal immigration officials.

The act would punish cities and states that do not fully comply with federal immigration authorities, making those local and state governments ineligible for grants with the Department of Justice and the Department of Homeland Security.

Congressman Lloyd Doggett, D-Austin, opposes the bill, saying the federal version is all too similar to Texas Senate Bill 4.

“It’s a really sorry bill. This is the Trump companion to Greg Abbott’s Senate Bill 4. It interferes and intimidates local law enforcement. I have confidence in our police chiefs, our sheriff, to do the right thing by our safety, and I don’t think politicians in Washington or in Austin ought to be interfering.”

He continued, “To be clear, all of our communities, even those they allege are sanctuary communities — they honor any arrest warrant that comes from ICE, just as they would from law enforcement officers elsewhere in the state. But what they have not honored and the federal courts have said they should not honor, is a mere bureaucratic request based on suspicion that somebody might be here improperly.”

However, Congressman Jodey Arrington, R-Lubbock, is in favor of the bill. In a speech on the House floor on Wednesday, the lawmaker said, “When the federal government abdicates its responsibility to secure our border and enforce our immigration laws, we not only fail in our sacred duty to uphold the Constitution and the Rule of Law, but we put American lives at risk.”

He continued by highlighting crimes committed by undocumented immigrants.

“These avoidable tragic deaths and violent crimes continue to happen across the country, and many of the criminal aliens who have committed them have found refuge in our nation’s sanctuary cities. These are lawless cities, let’s be clear. Cities whose actions undermine the basic American tenant that we are a nation of laws, not of men. Fortunately, we have the opportunity to stop this madness and do the job the American people expect their government to do — their first job — and that’s keep Americans safe.”

SB4 passed the Texas legislature and was signed by Gov. Abbott back in May. It becomes law on Sept. 1. Opponents were quick to organize and take it to court. City lawyers and civil rights groups argued that since the law prohibits public officials from endorsing a policy, that would limit immigration enforcement.

In January, Travis County Sheriff Sally Hernandez prohibited deputies and jailers from asking about someone’s immigration status and limited how they will work with Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials, causing a major kerfuffle among Republican politicians. Gov. Abbott even cut $1.5 million in state grants to Travis County due to the sheriff’s new ICE policy. She later said she would follow any law that passed.

Hernandez says she will follow impending sanctuary city law.

The House floor is also expected to vote Thursday on Kate’s Law, named after Kathryn Steinle. The 32-year-old woman was shot and killed in 2015 in San Francisco by an immigrant who had been deported repeatedly yet returned.

The legislation would increase penalties for immigrants who repeatedly re-enter the country after being deported.

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