Surrounded by family members of people killed by illegal immigrants, President Trump urged Congress on Wednesday to pass two bills that would crack down on illegal-immigrant criminals and sanctuary cities.
Championing the victims of illegal-immigrant crime was a hallmark of Mr. Trump’s presidential run, and he vowed Wednesday follow through by quickly signing the bills when they reach his desk.
“You lost the people that you love because our government refused to enforce our nation’s immigration laws and that’s including the existing immigration laws,” he said at the roundtable meeting in the White House.
More than a dozen victims joined Mr. Trump to push the legislation, which faces opposition from Democrats.
“For years the pundits, journalists, politicians in Washington refused to hear your voices, but on Election Day 2016 your voices were heard all across the entire world. No one died in vain I can tell you that,” said the president.
Julie Golvach, whose 25-year-old son Spencer was gunned down in 2015 by an illegal immigrant during a mass shooting, demanded action.
“I want some action. If this was done years ago, my son would still be here,” said Mrs. Golvach, one of several family members who told their story at the meeting with the president.
Her son, who owned a guitar shop in Houston, was shot in the head as he sat in his car at a traffic light. The shooter, Victor Reyes, was a Mexican illegal immigrant who had been deported four times and had a criminal rap sheet stretching back 15 years.
“We lost everything. He was my only child,” she said, her voice cracking. “I want some action so nobody else has to go through the loss that we feel.”
Mr. Trump called on all members of Congress to “honor grieving American families by passing these life-saving measures.”
One of the bills scheduled for a vote this week is Kate’s Law, named after Kate Steinle, who was fatally shot in San Francisco while walking along the waterfront with her father in July 2015.
Her slaying came just days after Mr. Trump announced his presidential campaign, and he quickly seized on her death as a symbol of the problems in U.S. immigration policy.
Kate’s Law would impose strict penalties on illegal immigrant criminals who return to the U.S. after deportation.
The other bill is the No Sanctuary for Criminals Act, which would penalize jurisdictions that do not cooperate with federal immigration enforcement.
“It’s time to support our police to protect our families and to save American lives and also to start getting smart,” Mr. Trump said.
The White House also brought acting ICE Director Thomas D. Homan to advocate for the two bills at a briefing with reporters.
Mr. Homan gave an impassioned pitch, fighting back tears as he recalled finding a dead 5-year-old boy in the back of a tractor trailer smuggling in illegal immigrants. The boy who died of suffocation in his father’s arms could have been spared under the pending legislation, he said.
“How do you think that 5-year-old felt his last 10 minutes of his life looking at his father that couldn’t help him, or his father looking at his child that’s dying in his arms [and] can’t help him?” he said. “These organizations are callous.”
Pressed by reporters claiming that enforcing immigration laws was “cold,” could break up families, or spread fear, Mr. Homan defended ICE’s mission.
“People think I’m standing up here and I’m the devil. Let me make something clear: Why am I so strong about this? I’ve been doing 33 years,” he said. “If you saw what I saw the last 33 years, I wouldn’t get half the bad media that we get.”
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