Congresswoman Kristi Noem’s Weekly Column: Cracking Down on Illegal Immigration

Cracking Down on Illegal Immigration
By Rep. Kristi Noem

Just over two years ago, while walking on a pier in San Francisco with her dad, Kate Steinle was shot and killed by an illegal immigrant with a criminal past and a record of deportations.

I firmly believe the federal government has limited constitutional responsibilities, but establishing justice and insuring domestic tranquility are among the few authorities that were engraved into our founding document’s first sentence. In recent decades, however, the federal government has fallen through on these responsibilities when it comes to enforcing our immigration laws, and the loss of Kate is just one example of the consequences for that.

Kate’s killer had already been deported five times when he opened fire on July 1, 2015. Certainly, more must be done to secure our border, including building a more robust wall and giving border patrol agents the resources and technologies needed to create a more impenetrable barrier. And without question, the laws already on the books need to be better enforced.

But I also believe our laws could be stronger too.

Shortly before the two-year anniversary of Kate’s murder, I joined the House in passing Kate’s Law, which would significantly toughen the punishment for illegal immigrants who re-enter the country.  While I believe we could go even farther with these punishments, Kate’s Law is a good first step.

San Francisco, where Kate’s murder took place, is also one of more than 300 so-called “sanctuary cities” that openly refuse to turn over criminal illegal immigrants to federal law enforcement.

Kate’s killer had seven felony convictions at the time of the murder. Less than four months before Kate’s death, he was turned over to San Francisco authorities for an outstanding drug warrant. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement asked that he be kept in custody until immigration agents could get there, but because San Francisco is a sanctuary city, he was released. This should never have happened.  So, in addition to Kate’s Law, I helped pass the No Sanctuary for Criminals Act, which cracks down on sanctuary cities like San Francisco by withholding valuable federal grants from them.

While the Senate will debate the legislation next, President Trump has already announced his support for both bills.

This is just the beginning. I’ve also cosponsored the SMART Act, which would authorize additional personnel and new technologies to help secure the border, and I’ve backed legislation to help stop the drug trafficking that’s contributed to South Dakota’s drug abuse and violent crime increases.

Kate should have never lost her life on that pier in 2015. Her killer should have never been in this country – let alone, running free within it.  We have to be stronger when it comes to enforcing the laws on the books, but we also have a constitutional responsibility to make sure the laws on the books are strong enough to keep our families and communities safe.