With the strong backing of President Donald Trump, the House on Thursday approved two bills to toughen federal laws dealing with illegal immigration, stiffening penalties for people who re-enter the U.S. illegally after being deported, and withholding federal grant money from so-called “sanctuary cities,” which protect people from immigration agents.
“It is time to put the safety of AMERICANS before the comfort of criminal aliens,” the President said on social media.
The House voted along party lines to approve extra penalties for sanctuary cities; the vote was 228-195.
One of the bills was named after Kate Steinle, who was shot and killed by an illegal immigrant who had been arrested and deported five different times, would increase the penalties for illegally re-entering the United States. That drew the support of two dozen Democrats, and was approved 257-167.
“Everyone deserves to feel safe,” said Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA). “Kate Steinle deserved to feel safe when she was walking down the pier” in San Francisco, when she was killed.
Democrats argued in vain against the measures.
“What a way to leave for a July Fourth from a Congress that has accomplished practically nothing,” said Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-TX).
“I want to make it very clear,” said Rep. Joe Crowley (D-NY). “Immigrants and criminals are not synonyms.”
It was not clear how the measures would fare in the Senate, or when GOP leaders would move to bring them up on the floor.
The House and the Senate currently only have three weeks of scheduled legislative meetings in July, ready to start a five week summer break on July 28, which would last until after Labor Day.