“Kate was beautiful, kind, caring, loving, and deep in faith; Kate had a special soul, a kind and giving heart, the most contagious laugh, and a smile that would light up a room,” said Jim Steinle.
A doting father, Steinle was describing his daughter, 32-year-old Kathryn Steinle — who was killed weeks ago in San Francisco allegedly by a felon here illegally who’d already been deported multiple times — to the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday. “Kate loved to travel, spend time with her friends, and most of all spend time with her family,” Steinle continued. “In fact, the day she was killed, we were walking arm in arm on Pier 14 in San Francisco, enjoying a wonderful day together.”
Steinle described his last moments with his daughter, saying that as they walked, a gunshot rang out. Suddenly, Kate Steinle dropped to the ground, looked up at her father and said: “Help me, Dad.”
“Those are the last words I will ever hear from my daughter,” Steinle said.
Steinle urged senators to adopt legislation to prevent similar attacks, and was joined by other family members of similar tragedies — the perpetrators, or alleged perpetrators, were in the country illegally.
Susan Oliver, the wife of Sacramento Deputy Sheriff Danny Oliver, described how her husband was murdered while he approached a parked car. Micheal Ronnebeck described how his nephew, Grant Ronnebeck, was shot in the face over a few packs of cigarettes while working the night shift at a convenience store.
Other victims’ family members spoke, as did law enforcement officials and advocates, about sanctuary cities and other immigration-related issues.
“We feel strongly that some legislation should be discussed, enacted and/or changed to take these undocumented immigrant felons off our streets for good,” Steinle said. “We would be proud to see Kate’s name associated with some of this new legislation.”
Judiciary Chairman Charles E. Grassley, R-Iowa, announced legislation Tuesday that would withhold federal law enforcement grants for states and local jurisdictions that don’t cooperate with federal officials in holding and transferring criminal immigrants in the country illegally.
Existing law does not require prison time for those who repeatedly re-enter the United States after having been deported, capping prison sentences at two years. Grassley’s bill imposes a mandatory five-year minimum, plus possible fines for repeat offenders.
“This section of my bill is aimed at individuals who ignore our laws time and again,” Grassley said. “Enforcing the immigration laws of the United States is not a voluntary or trivial matter. Real lives are at stake.”
“No more people should die at the hands of those who break our laws just by being here,” Grassley said. “No more families should have to go through what our witnesses have experienced.”
Grassley’s bill responds to the Steinle killing, where an undocumented man with a criminal record, who had been deported five times, was arrested and charged with fatally shooting Steinle with a gun stolen from a federal law enforcement officer’s vehicle.
As senators noted Tuesday, San Francisco sheriffs made a decision not to inform ICE of the man’s detainment or release, as part of local policy.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., the former mayor of San Francisco, also announced that she and other committee members were crafting legislation requiring local jurisdictions to notify ICE, if requested, about the impending release of a criminal, undocumented immigrant.
“A simple phone call would have been enough,” Feinstein said at the hearing. “Notification could have prevented Kate Steinle’s death.”
Feinstein’s bill is similar to one introduced recently by Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., that would require local officials and states to notify ICE upon the arrest of an undocumented immigrant, and detain the individual if directed to do so by federal officials. Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., has introduced similar legislation in the House.
While some of Tuesday’s panelists pushed through tears in their testimonies, one audience member, Dan Rosenberg, was escorted away from the hearing in handcuffs after yelling at Reverend Gabriel Salguero, a panelist who spoke against “creating policies that further target immigrants.”
Rosenberg’s son, Drew, had been killed in 2010 in San Francisco by an unlicensed Honduran native, who was in the U.S. on temporary protective status.
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