In a 257 to 167 vote on June 30, the House of Representatives pass Kate’s Law, a bill that has won support from President Donald Trump and Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz that stiffens penalties for illegal immigrants who re-enter the United States repeatedly, while also imposing even stiffer penalties for those convicted of felony offenses. Among the two dozen Democrats who supported the measure was Rep. Henry Cuellar, who represents Laredo, Texas. The bipartisan vote came despite objections on the part of the Democrats’ leadership.
The legislation now goes to the Senate, where the passage of the bill can only come with bipartisan support. In the Senate, where Republicans need 60 votes for passage. With a slight margin of 52 to 48, Republicans are not expected to win over Democrats. Cuellar also voted with a few other Democrats in favor of another measure, despite objections on the part of his party leadership. The House passed a bill that strips federal funding from sanctuary cities that do not cooperate with federal immigration authorities. The measure passed 228 to 195, with Cuellar one of three Democrats to support it.
Rep. Filemon Vela (D-TX), who represents Brownsville -- another border town -- blasted the two bills as part of a "racist agenda." He said that Republicans and the Trump administration "continue to demonize immigrant communities as an excuse to build up their deportation machine." There were others besides Democrats who opposed the bills. For example, the National Fraternal Order of Police, and the American Civil Liberties Union, have announced opposition to the sanctuary cities measure.
In an interview with Univision, Cuellar described his reasons for supporting the pair of immigration reform measures. Saying that he always votes according to the needs of his congressional district and according to his conscience, Cuellar said “I look at the details of each measure, not only those that are reported in the news or that are shared on social media.”
As for the two bills, Cuellar that both are sensible reforms of law enforcement. He said, “When you read the legislation, you will see that it offers reasonable adjustments to the current law that reflect my values: the rule of law, efficient communications between various levels of government, and judicial discretion to pass sentences based on the details of a case instead of minimum sentences.” For Cuellar, the two bills are not immigration bills as much they are supports for law enforcement.
Kate’s Law was originally sponsored by House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA). It is named for Kate Steinle, a young woman who was shot to death by Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez -- an illegal immigrant who had been deported five times.