GOP taking one more run at passing Kate's Law

Another of President Trump’s priorities on the campaign trail was working on the passage of Kate’s Law. Initially put forward in 2015 following the murder of California resident Kate Steinle by an illegal immigrant who had been deported multiple times, the bill would provide for stiff prison sentences for illegal aliens who are found to be back in the United States illegally after having been previously deported. The bill has failed to make it past Democratic obstruction thus far, but The Hill reports that the GOP is going to take another shot at it.

Republicans are going on the offensive with “Kate’s Law,” seeking to fulfill one of President Trump’s most high-profile promises while putting Democrats on defense over illegal immigration…

Now, Republicans are working on legislation to impose a mandatory five-year minimum prison sentence for immigrants who have twice been charged with illegally re-entering the country or have prior aggravated felony convictions.

Language for Kate’s Law is tucked into a border security bill that Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) and House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaul (R-Texas) are working on, according to a draft copy reviewed by The Hill.

This would obviously be good news for the President, who has been hard pressed to get any sort of legislative wins chalked up in the book lately when all the Democrats want to talk about is Russia. The latest attempt takes the form of pushing Kate’s Law through as part of the larger border security bill. But it seems rather odd that they couldn’t come up with enough votes to get it through as a standalone piece of legislation.

You may recall that Kate’s Law has come up a couple of times already in the past two years, never making it to a full vote. It became an issue in Pat Toomey’s Senate race last year in a sign that the Democrats were still ready to play hardball over it. Last July it made it as far as a vote for cloture, but the measure failed. You can read the full list of votes here, but all of the Nays came from the Democrats plus Angus King and Bernie Sanders.

This is one of those tough issues for me where my gut reaction runs counter to what my head is telling me. On a visceral level I’d like to see the measure passed into law just as a demonstration that we can still get serious about illegal immigration and punish those who flaunt our laws and border integrity. But the results of such an action are also disturbing. If there’s an illegal alien who is convicted of some other serious crime, not even necessarily as serious as in the Steinle case, I would be all for a law which tacks on even more mandatory prison time. If you’re an illegal alien who robs a bank with some citizen accomplices you should know in advance that they may get off with a few months in jail (for a first offense) and some parole, but you will be going to rot in a federal pen for a decade or longer. That’s a suitable deterrent.

But Kate’s Law is specifically targeting illegal aliens who may have managed to stay out of other trouble beyond the crime of violating our borders. Do we really want to take those folks and sentence them to five or ten years? If we do, they become our problem and the taxpayers foot the bill for housing and feeding them for all that time. Given the number of repeat offenders that ICE runs across every year we’re going to have to build a lot more prisons. I’d still prefer a stronger emphasis on preventing them from getting back in (build the wall, more border guards, etc.) and removing the incentive for entry by seriously cracking down on employers who hire illegal aliens and/or fail to use the E-verify system.

Still, I suppose I won’t complain too much if Congress manages to pass this and get it to Trump’s desk. When it comes to illegal immigration, managing to do something is almost always better than doing nothing at all. (Which has been our repeating pattern of behavior for far too long.)