Work on immigration enforcement renewed

Published 7:00 am Thursday, January 26, 2017

President Trump has promised much-needed immigration reform during his administration. His proposals have included stronger border security, the proper enforcement of immigration law, and the protection of American jobs.

The President has nominated Gen. John Kelly to head the Department of Homeland Security, which will oversee the implementation of our nation’s immigration policies. During his recent confirmation hearing in the Senate, Gen. Kelly reiterated his commitment “to preserve our liberty, enforce our laws, and protect our citizens.”

I am glad the Senate has reinvigorated its efforts to promote these aims in our nation’s immigration policies. I am a cosponsor of four bills that have been reintroduced to put an end to America’s “sanctuary cities,” jurisdictions where local authorities do not cooperate with the federal government to uphold immigration law.

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Respecting the Law of the Land

I strongly believe we should close these glaring gaps in immigration enforcement, and I remain a steadfast opponent of sanctuary policies that undercut federal law. Truly achieving immigration reform demands an adherence to the law of the land – something the Obama Administration tried to circumvent with its executive actions for amnesty.

My support for the Senate’s bills to end “sanctuary cities” is not a newfound priority. During the past two Congresses, I backed legislation to withhold federal funding from “sanctuary cities.”

I have also consistently supported legislative efforts to detain those who engage in criminal activity while unlawfully residing in the United States.

Bills Would Put Public Safety First

We cannot ignore the senseless tragedies caused by criminals who are here illegally. Last year, a drunk driver killed 21-year-old Sarah Root in Omaha, and a year earlier a convicted felon who had been repeatedly deported shot 32-year-old Kate Steinle in San Francisco. Two pieces of legislation named in honor of Sarah and Kate would try to prevent these heartbreaking crimes from happening again. “Sarah’s Law,” authored by Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), would require that illegal immigrants who hurt or kill Americans be detained. Under “Kate’s Law,” authored by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), illegal immigrants with aggravated felony convictions or multiple unlawful entries into the United States would receive a mandatory five-year sentence.

The drunk driver responsible for Sarah’s death remains at large, when he should have been taken into custody by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Instead, he fled after posting bail. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) has sought to change this protocol with a bill requiring the detainment of illegal immigrants who have been charged with drunk driving.

Thse bills are just a few examples of how the new Congress is working to strengthen immigration enforcement. I am hopeful it will lead to real progress during the Trump Administration, which has repeatedly promised major reforms, such as securing the border.

America is a country built on the rule of law. Not following the law, as “sanctuary cities” continue to do, impedes sensible, good-faith efforts to fix our broken immigration system and protect public safety.

These loopholes should be closed immediately.

By U.S. Senator Roger Wicker