Lofgren statement on Kate’s Law

June 29, 2017
Press Release

WASHINGTON, DCU.S. Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-San Jose) issued the following statement today on the floor of the House of Representatives in opposition to H.R. 3004, Kate's Law:

"Mr Speaker- I rise in opposition to this bill.

"This bill is part of H.R. 2451, a mass deportation bill marked up by the House Judiciary Committee earlier this month. I think the message it is intended to convey is that the bill is needed to keep us safe. 

"We have heard the sad story of the murder of Kate Steinle, which was not news to any of us in Northern California. That was a horrible murder but the fact is, this bill would not have prevented that murder. The offender had been deported multiple times. He had served 16 years in federal prison, so the idea that the 10 year enhancement would have fixed this is just misplaced.

"When we talk about the bill, it's as if we don't have harsh penalties now for misbehavior in the law. If you take a look at the enhancements, it expands criminal sentences for individuals who reenter the country after removal – we already have very strong penalties against that. To say that this bill will keep us safe, because, for example, we have under current law a 20 year sentence for a conviction for an aggravated felony, this would raise it to 25. I don't think that will fix the problem.

"If it were only that, we could have a discussion, which unfortunately we never did on a bipartisan basis.
"The bill does other things that are very damaging. It actually makes it a felony, punishable by up to two years, to attempt to re-enter the country legally—in full compliance with our immigration laws.  This is even true for individuals who have no criminal background whatsoever.

"The sponsors of this bill may argue that it is necessary, but I've seen no rationale for why that would make any sense, nor would it have prevented the tragic murder of Kate Steinle.

"Now let's give some examples of who that could apply to. You have individuals who have lived here, DREAMers who have lived here their whole lives brought over as children and were removed. If that person whose been removed becomes a victim of sex trafficking, the process is this: they can come and seek asylum, they can flee from their traffickers and if they present themselves to a port of entry today – they're not trying to evade detection – no they're trying to be found. They're turning themselves in. They're turning themselves in saying "I am fleeing from the sex traffickers, I want to make a claim for asylum. I need to be kept safe from the sex traffickers. This bill would make that act a felony.

"The Chairman has said how wonderful it is that we have created an affirmative defense in the act. What he has neglected to mention is that right now we don't need an affirmative defense because it's not a crime to go to the port of entry and seek a benefit. Either humanitarian parole for a purpose which is sometimes granted, to travel if a member of your family is dying, to provide an organ donation to an American citizen who is in the US who his dying. That's not a crime today and you don't need an affirmative defense because it's not a crime.

"I think the fact that it eliminates an important Constitutional provision is problematic. We all know we can't change the Constitution by statute. The case of U.S. v Mendoza Lopez basically says this, if you're going to prosecute somebody for entry after removal – which happens all the time, in fact that is the single most prevalent federal prosecution in the system today, that's number one – and you did not have an opportunity to actually contest the first removal because, for example you were never notified of the hearing – since that is an element of the offense, the Mendoza case says you have to at least be able to collaterally attack that because you never had a chance to do so initially, this eliminates that Constitutional case and you can't do that by statute.

"So the point I'm making is that the majority of those who enter the United State without inspection are coming back to try to get next to their families, their US citizen kids, their US citizen spouses. They're not criminals, they're not creating any kind of crime. We all oppose crime but this remedy is unrelated to the horror stories we've heard.

"You know, we're creating law here, not bumper stickers. I hope that we will vote against this misplaced law and work together to solve the real problems that we face."


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