The Story Behind ‘Kate’s Law’—and How It Could Change Immigration Policies in the U.S.

Kristine Phillips, Washington Post, June 29, 2017

Kathryn Steinle was walking with her father one July evening at one of San Francisco’s most popular tourist spots when suddenly, they heard a gunshot.

Steinle fell to the ground. She looked at her father and said, “Help me, Dad.”

Those would be her last words, her father later said during testimony in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee. The bullet had pierced the 32-year-old’s aorta. She would die two hours later at San Francisco General Hospital.

Her killer, authorities say, was Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez, a Mexican national with seven felony convictions and who had been deported five times but had returned to the United States.

Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez

Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez

Around the time of Steinle’s killing, Lopez-Sanchez had just finished a nearly four-year federal prison sentence for illegally reentering the country. He was turned over to San Francisco law enforcement officials because of an outstanding warrant for a marijuana-related charge that was immediately dismissed. Local authorities later released him, despite a request from federal immigration officials to keep him in custody because of his undocumented status, according to a wrongful-death lawsuit filed by Steinle’s family.

Less than three months later, authorities say, Lopez-Sanchez stole a .40-caliber pistol from the unlocked car of a U.S. Bureau of Land Management ranger, and shot Steinle at Pier 14 along the Embarcadero.

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On Thursday, just two days before the second-year anniversary of Steinle’s shooting, the House of Representatives passed a bill known as “Kate’s Law,” which would enhance penalties for convicted and deported criminals who reenter the United States illegally. It was first introduced in 2015, but it failed to advance in the Senate.

“Kate’s Law” is one of two immigration bills voted on Thursday. The other, the “No Sanctuary for Criminals Act,” would bar federal grants from sanctuary cities and allow victims of crimes committed by undocumented immigrants to sue those cities. It also passed, and both bills are headed to the Senate.

The House votes come at a critical time for the Trump administration. Passage of the bills could pave the way for a victory for Trump’s immigration agenda, particularly on sanctuary cities. The president met with families of victims Wednesday and urged lawmakers to bring the bills to his desk quickly.

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Lopez-Sanchez, 54, is facing murder and other charges in connection to the shooting. The criminal case remains pending. His attorney, Matt Gonzalez, had argued that his client found the gun and that the shooting was accidental, NPR reported. A message left for Gonzalez’s secretary Thursday was not immediately returned.

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