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Florida congressional members cross party lines on immigration bills

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

The GOP-controlled House of Representatives passed two immigration-related bills Thursday afternoon.

One was Kate’s Law, which mandates a minimum five-year prison sentence for anyone who re-enters the country illegally at least twice after being deported. It passed the House of Representatives on Thursday with a vote of 257 to 157.

The No Sanctuary for Criminals Act passed by a 228-195 margin.

Both votes were mostly along party lines, but not in Florida.

Only seven Republicans voted against the No Sanctuary for Criminals Act but three came from the Miami delegation — Mario Diaz-BalartCarlos Curbelo and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.

Three Democrats voted against the majority of their colleagues to support Kate’s Law, including Charlie Crist, Val Demings and Stephanie Murphy.

Tarpon Springs Republican Gus Bilirakis and Lakeland Republican Dennis Ross joined the majority of their colleagues in supporting the legislation.

“My first duty is keeping my constituents and the American people safe. We are a nation of laws, which means that cities that protect criminals will no longer be ignored, and criminal illegal immigrants who re-enter our country will be punished. The legislation we passed today enforces our immigration laws, combats dangerous sanctuary cities, and helps protect the public,” said Bilirakis.

“I voted for Kate’s Law and the No Sanctuary for Criminals Act because, for far too long, the lack of immigration enforcement and dangerous sanctuary city policies throughout our country have failed the American people and cost too many lives. These bills fulfill our promise to make public safety a top priority as they help prevent unlawful immigrants who commit serious crimes from becoming repeat offenders that put our communities at risk,” said Ross. “The deaths of innocent Americans, such as Kate Steinle, Sarah Root, Grant Ronnebeck and numerous others, are tragic and were preventable. We owe it to their loved ones, and all Americans, to strengthen our lax immigration policies that contribute to these avoidable tragedies.”

Kate’s law is the legislation named after 32-year-old Kate Steinle, who was gunned down in broad daylight along San Francisco’s waterfront by a five-time deported criminal illegal immigrant with seven prior felony convictions. It would increase the mandatory penalties for aliens who illegally re-enter the U.S.

The No Sanctuary for Criminals Act would prevent states and localities that do not comply with federal immigration laws from receiving certain Department of Justice or Department of Homeland Security federal grants.

Whether either bill gets passed by the U.S. Senate and on President Donald Trump‘s desk remains tenuous. Kate’s Law went down to defeat in the Senate back in 2015.

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Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served as five years as the political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. He also was the assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley. He's a San Francisco native who has now lived in Tampa for 15 years and can be reached at mitch.perry@floridapolitics.com.

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