Legislation proposed to create harsher punishments for undocumented immigrants was blocked on Wednesday by Democratic Minority Leader Harry Reid.
The legislation was put forward by Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz, who tried to get unanimous consent on its passing, saying that Congress needs “leadership” on the issue. Cruz’s proposed legislation targets immigrants who re-enter the United States after being deported, and it has been referred to as “Kate’s Law” – after Kathryn Steinle, the San Francisco woman who was shot and killed by a man recently released from jail, and who had allegedly re-entered the US five times.
Under the law, undocumented immigrants would face additional prison time if they were caught re-entering the US after deportation, as well as a minimum five-year sentence if they were previously convicted of an aggravated felony or of illegally re-entering the country twice.
Reid called the proposal “another attack on the immigrant community”. He warned that Cruz’s legislation would have a “crippling financial effect”, and that there was no evidence suggesting the bill would prevent further violations of the law. He also added that all the Republican leaders and their caucuses have been responsible for since the Senate passed immigration reform in 2013 is “bills attacking immigrants”.
However, Cruz maintained that his proposal was only targeting “violent illegal criminal aliens”, and that Reid was “sad” for standing with them instead of American citizens, as well as boxing legal immigrants in with undocumented immigrants. Cruz added that he himself is the son of a legal immigrant from Cuba, and that “for the Democratic leader to cynically suggest that somehow immigrants should be lumped into the same bucket with murderers and rapists demonstrates the cynicism of the modern Democratic Party.”
He was backed on the issue by Senator Marco Rubio, who was notably outraged by a broader immigration bill with similar language to Cruz’s proposal also being blocked by Democrats last month.
The refusal to back Cruz’s legislation comes only a day after Democrats – as well as some Republicans, like Senator Lindsey Graham – voiced criticisms about Speaker Paul Ryan, who recently suggested that the House of Representatives wouldn’t move on immigration reform until President Obama is out of office next year. He said that the President is “untrustworthy” on immigration issues, and is standing in the way of legislation passing.
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