Editor’s Note: This post was written by Ryne Martinez.
H.R. 3011, Establishing Mandatory Minimums for Illegal Reentry Act of 2015, otherwise known as Kate’s Law, focuses on the re-entry of illegal aliens into the United States. The issue of re-entry had been occurring enough to the point that Republican legislators sought to increase prison sentences with the hopes that re-entry would slow down. Congressman Matt Salmon (R-AZ) introduced Kate’s Law in the House on July 9th, 2015, during the first session of the 114th Congress. The bill was introduced eight days after Kate Steinle of San Francisco, was shot and killed at Pier 14 by Francisco Sanchez, an illegal immigrant from Mexico with a past criminal record. This horrific and unexpected murder shed a light on the issue of illegal re-entry and the penalties that follow. However, this particular incident is much more complicated than this piece of legislation, as the city of San Francisco is a sanctuary city for immigrants, which has its own complex set of follows that are separate from federal laws.
The Senate version of this bill, S. 1762, was introduced by Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) on July 15th, 2015. Cruz was quick to introduce the identical version in the Senate because the Republican agenda at the time called for this issue to be resolved in a timely manner. However, this issue was not resolved through legislation because both versions of the bill got “bottled up” in committee. Senator Cruz and the Republican Party strongly supported this bill, therefore Senator Cruz again introduced another bill of the same nature, S. 2193, on October 21st, 2015. This version bypassed committee and went straight to the floor for a vote. Before the vote, Senator Cruz pleaded with his fellow congressmen and women that this bill would protect all Americans for years to come. Cloture motion to proceed debate was filed on June 29th, 2016, before being voted on on July 6th. To the dismay of many Republicans, the motion to cloture did not succeed and the bill died, again.
The three months between the different Senate versions was crucial for both Senator Cruz and the Republican Party because the party’s stance on immigration was their main focus during the presidential election. During this time, Senator Cruz needed to secure the passage of cloture by trying to garner the support of moderate Democrats to achieve the 60 votes needed. This was not achieved because Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) was able to use his seniority status to make sure the Democrats blocked this bill. However, there were two Democrats who voted in favor of this bill: Senators Joe Donnelly (D-IN) and Joe Manchin (D-WV). Both senators are known to work with Republicans on bipartisan issues, such as immigration. They are both senior members and Senator Reid knew that if they were to vote in favor, the Republicans would still not have enough votes.
Kate’s Law, on paper, seems like a legitimate piece of anti-immigration reform that would protect the border and the well-being of the citizens of the U.S. The underlying provisions of the bill are what ultimately did not get bipartisan support. This is what caused each version of the bill to fail. The five-year sentence for re-entry the bill would impose would cause overcrowding in prisons and could lead to the building of more prisons because of the increase of prisoners, all which would require an extraordinary amount of money. The absence of Democratic support was formed on the basis that the bill would create more prisons and the money to make said prisons did not fit into the budget. Kate’s Law had positive provisions, harsh penalties for re-entry, but they did not outweigh the negative consequences that would have occurred if the bill was passed.