Democrats made sure “Kate’s Law” was dead on arrival this week, ending – for now – an effort to block federal funding to so-called sanctuary cities.
While Russ Feingold’s campaign did not respond to a request for comment, the Wisconsin Democrat who is trying to recapture the Senate seat he lost in 2010 has a legislative record of opposing such bills and supporting sanctuary cities.
Sanctuary cities are municipalities with policies and procedures that, by law or action, shelter illegal immigrants and prohibit law enforcement from working with immigration agents in cases that could lead to deportation.
Kate’s law, named after Kate Steinle, who police say was fatally shot in July 2015 by an illegal immigrant with a long record of felony convictions and deported several times.
The bill also imposes mandatory minimum criminal penalties for immigrants who repeatedly violate U.S. immigration laws.
The measures garnered majority support but died silent deaths, unable to receive the required 60 votes to open debate.
U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, the Oshkosh Republican who sent Feingold packing after 18 years in the Senate, was a big backer of the bill. As chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, Johnson said he has heard the accounts of federal officials helpless to stop criminals from striking again.
“Shortly after the deadly shooting of Kate Steinle, an official from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement testified to my committee that the agency could not deport the man who killed Kate because San Francisco did not honor the ICE detainer,” Johnson said. “In fact, the criminal alien admitted that he went to San Francisco because of its lenient policies.”
Just how Feingold would have voted this time around is not clear. His campaign did not return a request for comment.
But the Middleton liberal has voted against moves to block federal funding for sanctuary cities on at least three separate occasions, according to a review of his Senate voting record.
In 2007, he joined fellow Democrats in voting “nay” on an amendment “allowing information sharing between federal and law enforcement” on immigration status. The proposal would have amended the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 to allow law enforcement agents to ask questions on immigration status if they have probable cause to believe an immigrant is in the country illegally. A substitute amendment would have overhauled U.S. immigration policies and institute new border security measures, including an electronic verification system.
The amendments failed, as did a comprehensive package of immigration reform bills championed by then-President George W. Bush. The reform package included a controversial “temporary worker program.”
Feingold voted for the guest worker program.
He also voted yes on allowing illegal immigrants to participate in Social Security.
U.S. Border Control, a nonprofit committed to ending illegal immigration by securing the nation’s borders, gave Feingold a zero percent rating on immigration issues.
In 2008, Feingold voted to table another amendment cutting funding for sanctuary cities.
“While Ron Johnson is working to keep our communities safe through common-sense legislation to crack down on sanctuary cities, Senator Feingold voted several times in favor of sanctuary cities – allowing them to shelter criminals at the expense of local communities,” said Pat Garett, spokesman for the Republican Party of Wisconsin.“Feingold’s radical ideology proves once again to be far out of touch with keeping Wisconsin’s communities safe.”
As to the fall of Kate’s law, Johnson said it’s “disappointing Democrats prevented the Senate from even considering these measures.”
“Criminal penalties for illegal re-entry should be strengthened. Cities that do not cooperate with immigration laws should not receive federal money. Liability protection must be provided to jurisdictions that do cooperate,” the Republican said in a statement after the legislation failed to come up for a vote.