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Who Was Kate Steinle? What Is Kate's Law?

Updated on July 27, 2017
Stephen Sinclair profile image

Stephen Sinclair is a freelance Canadian writer who has been publishing professionally for several years.

Memorial for Kathryn Steinle.
Memorial for Kathryn Steinle. | Source

Congress passes 'Kate's Law'

"Kate's Law" refers to the amendment of section 276 of the Immigration and Nationality Act, and is named after Kate Steinle, a 32-year-old woman who was shot to death by Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez, an undocumented Mexican immigrant, who had been deported on five occasions and convicted of seven criminal offenses, as reported by the Los Angeles Times.

At the time of the shooting, shortly after President Donald Trump first announced his presidential aspirations, the Times wrote that it had become a "flash point in the long-divisive political debate about how to reform the nation's immigration system."

CNN reported that Republicans "relentlessly hammered" a "rule of law" message, leading up to Thursday's vote.

"Sanctuary cities are anything but safe. Instead these are places that allow some criminals to go free," Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly was quoted. Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Paul Ryan said, "By flagrantly disregarding the rule of law, sanctuary cities are putting lives at risk."

Californian Democrat Zoe Lofgren called the framing by the Republicans "bogus." The representative explained the view that immigration enforcement is the job of federal authorities. "What they want to do is commandeer state and locals to do their job for them, and a lot of police departments object to that because they need to build trust with communities."

While Kate's Law has passed in Congress, 257-167, CNN forecasts that the legislation will likely be unable to find the votes it needs in the Senate, even though a number of Democrats have supported previous votes. It is thought that an additional five Democratic votes would be needed for Kate's Law to pass.

U.S. President Donald Trump
U.S. President Donald Trump | Source

Who was Kate Steinle?

Kate Steinle was murdered on July 1, 2015, as she was walking at Pier 14, a popular tourist spot in San Francisco. Ms. Steinle was a graduate of California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, and employed by Medtronic. The .40-caliber handgun Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez used to shoot Steinle was reported by CNN to have been stolen from a U.S. Bureau of Land Management ranger's vehicle.

Digg observed that President Trump tweeted about Kate's Law 11 times in the 24 hours leading up to its Congressional vote. The publication detailed how the 2016 Senate vote on Kate's Law failed to garner the necessary support because Democratic senators "disagreed with mandatory minimum sentencing contained in the bill."

Other legislation passing in Congress, 228-195, on Thursday included the "No Sanctuary for Criminals Act" that intensifies the requirements of sanctuary cities to enforce federal immigration laws, implementing financial penalties for those that fail to comply.

Jerry Nadler, a representative from New York, expressed the view that Kate's Law and the No Sanctuary for Criminals Act perpetuate an "ugly myth" that those born outside the United States are more likely to be involved in criminal acts than natural-born citizens. He stated that the No Sanctuary for Criminals Act "demonizes immigrants" and punishes communities who have taken planned steps, aimed at building trust between members of law enforcement and citizens. "All while making us less safe," Nadler stated on the floor of the House of Representatives.

Much of the debate surrounding the bills stems from the fact that the city where Kate Steinle was shot, San Francisco, does not assist federal authorities with immigration enforcement. Observers note that Kate's Law and the No Sanctuary for Criminals Act have been "packaged" together. Cities like San Francisco that have refused to cooperate with federal immigration authorities may lose funding from the Department of Justice and Department of Homeland Security if the new legislation passes in the Senate.

Comparing the new legislation with the proposed U.S.-Mexico border wall, Quartz has suggested that Kate's Law will do more to appease the hard-line immigration reform base built up by President Trump than actually work to "fix the U.S. immigration system. The law will "punish undocumented immigrants but won’t do much to prevent crimes by them."

© 2017 Stephen Sinclair

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