Immigrant rights advocates have urged Congress not to impose immigration enforcement mandates on local law enforcement.

According to a statement from the National Immigration Law Center (NILC), Congress has been "poised to consider heavy-handed, reactionary immigration proposals" in response to the death of Kathryn Steinle in San Francisco by an undocumented immigrant, who was deported on five previous occasions due to drug-related felonies.

On Tuesday morning, the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing titled "Oversight of the Administration's Misdirected Immigration Enforcement Policies: Examining the Impact on Public Safety and Honoring the Victims." Based on witnesses scheduled for the hearing, Steinle's father will deliver testimony. In addition, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Director Leon Rodriguez and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Director Sarah Saldaña will be in attendance."

According to a prepared statement by Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Tuesday's hearing focused on the Obama administration's immigration policies and practices that are "hurting American families." Grassley claimed the deaths of Americans by immigrants were "a direct result" to the Obama administration's "failure to deport criminals or its tolerance of sanctuary policies."

"We will examine the administration's policies from the top down. We'll look at how federal benefits are being granted to deportable criminals by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, why criminals are being released by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and how enforcement of the laws can be better achieved," Grassley stated, adding that the committee will look into methods to improve cooperation between USCIS and ICE and the federal government and states with local law enforcement agencies.

Grassley also confirmed the introduction of a legislation that would hold sanctuary jurisdictions accountable by requiring the Executive Branch to withhold select federal funding if states or local law enforcement refuses to cooperate with the federal government in holding or transferring a criminal immigrant. Grassley's bill would also require a mandatory minimum five-year prison sentence

Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, has called for the committee to look at the facts and not be misled by rhetoric.

"We must not, for example, blame a whole community for the reprehensible actions of a few," Leahy stated. "The perpetrators of the terrible crimes we will hear about today must be held accountable. There are no excuses to be made for the damage they have caused. At the same time, those crimes should not be used as an excuse for demonizing an entire community."

Leahy referenced the American Immigration Council and the Cato Institute reports indicating immigrants are less likely than U.S.-born individuals to commit crimes.

He later added, "As the [Senate Judiciary Committee] once again turns its attention to immigration, we must remember that reform requires a comprehensive response. We cannot only address the issue of enforcement. We must also focus on how to keep families together, hold employers accountable and modernize our immigration system."

Avideh Moussavian, policy attorney at NILC, said, "We strongly oppose any legislation that would undermine state and local law enforcement's efforts to build and restore community trust."

Nearly 90 local and national organizations have written a letter to Congress stating their opposition to Grassley's legislation. The letter reiterated U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson's remarks that mandating policies would not improve efforts.

"The real solution to our immigration challenges is broad and humane immigration reform which would place undocumented immigrants on a workable and earned path to citizenship, thereby allowing them to contribute even more to their families, communities, and our country," the letter continued, which was signed by groups including the American Immigration Lawyers Association, Latin American Working Group Education Fund, National Council of La Raza, United We Dream and We Belong Together.


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