On Thursday, the House of Representatives passed an immigration bill known as "Kate's Law." Donald Trump had strenuously supported the legislation during his presidential campaign, and it's now one step closer to landing on his desk. But what exactly is Kate's Law, and how will it change U.S. immigration law?
Kate's Law increases penalties for undocumented immigrants who return to the United States after having been deported earlier. The legislation is named after Kathryn Steinle, a woman who was allegedly murdered by an undocumented immigrant in San Francisco in 2015. Steinle's death quickly became a cause célèbre for proponents of more restrictive immigration laws, due to the identity of the man who was ultimately charged with her murder. He was a Mexican citizen who had multiple felony convictions and had entered the country illegally.
The man had been released to San Francisco law enforcement shortly after being released from federal prison, where he was serving time for coming to the United States without proper documentation. Federal agents requested that San Francisco keep him in detention due to his undocumented status but because San Francisco is a sanctuary city, it ignored those requests and released him.
Three months later, Steinle was killed when a bullet struck her in the aorta while she was at Pier 14. Some ballistics experts later argued that her death was likely an accident, as the bullet had apparently ricocheted off of the concrete before striking Steinle. Nevertheless, the man was suspected of being the one who fired the gun, and he was eventually charged with her murder. He claimed that he shot her accidentally.
Supporters of more restrictive immigration laws argued that the Mexican citizen charged with Steinle's murder shouldn't have received such a lenient sentence for violating U.S. immigration laws (and, separately, that San Francisco shouldn't have released him in defiance of federal authorities). As such, they proposed legislation to impose harsher sentences on undocumented immigrants who have already been convicted of crimes.
Under the version of Kate's Law passed Monday, immigrants who fall into that category could face between 10 and 25 years in prison, according to NBC News.
"The legislation before us today is one born of a preventable tragedy," said Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, one of the bill's co-sponsors. “Let this bill be her legacy. Let this bill result in Kate saving the lives of others.” However, Democratic Rep. Jerrold Nadler called the legislation "callous and irrational."
In addition to Kate's Law, the House also passed a companion piece of legislation called the No Sanctuary for Criminals Act, which would cut federal funds for sanctuary cities. Supporters say this would incentivize cities to take stronger action against undocumented immigrants. Critics point to a January analysis of FBI crime data, which found that sanctuary cities have lower-than-average levels of crime, including homicides, when compared with other American cities.