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Congressman Tom Cole

Representing the 4th District of Oklahoma

Enforcing and Reforming Our Immigration System

December 4, 2017
Weekly Columns
In America, we are fortunate to be a land of opportunity and to be one that is shaped by immigrants from all over the world. Likewise, law and justice also shapes our nation. Many immigrants have entered the United States legally and have thrived. In recent years though, our nation has been home to millions of illegal immigrants, and the laws that are supposed to protect our borders have failed to do so.
 
Kate Steinle is one American citizen who paid the ultimate price for that failure. She was tragically murdered by an illegal immigrant who had entered the country illegally not once, but six times. Her death was the result of failed border security and disastrous sanctuary city policies. In 2015, she was shot and killed by Jose Ines Garcia Zarate while on a walk in San Francisco. Last week, a jury found Zarate guilty of only one felony – possession of a firearm. He was acquitted of her murder. But regardless of the circumstances in the incident, Zarate had been deported five times – and was back in the United States, living in a sanctuary city. Had the law been enforced, Kate Steinle’s death could have been prevented.
 
Securing our borders must be a national priority. It is entirely unacceptable that anyone could enter our country illegally six different times and then be allowed to seek safe haven in a sanctuary city. During his time in the United States, he had possession of illegal drugs and had been arrested for those crimes. Even after being arrested for possession of marijuana, he was still released and a request from federal officials for his deportation was not followed. This year, the House and President Trump have called for stronger borders, with an additional $1.6 billion in federal funding going toward enhanced border security.
 
One of the major flaws in our current immigration system has been the existence of so-called “sanctuary cities.” Sanctuary cities are cities that refuse cooperation with the federal government and immigration officials in relation to immigration laws. San Francisco has been a notorious sanctuary city since 2013 and it is because of its refusal to hand over Zarate to federal immigration officials that Zarate was able to walk freely through the city, possess a gun and kill Steinle.
 
The House has passed two critical pieces of legislation this year to prevent future deaths like Steinle’s from happening again. The No Sanctuary Cities for Criminals Act and Kate’s Law will strengthen federal immigration enforcement in sanctuary cities and increase penalties for deported felons who return to the United States. When have stronger borders and a good operating legal system, we can protect the safety of U.S. citizens from convicted felons who are in the nation illegally. Kate Steinle’s death could have been prevented. The time to further reform our immigration system is now. 
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