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Sen. Cruz: We Must Send the Message That Defiance of Our Laws Will No Longer Be Tolerated

Demands accountability of the Obama Administration through legislation cracking down on sanctuary cities, criminal illegal aliens

October 20, 2015

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WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) today delivered a speech on the Senate floor citing the Obama Administration’s persistent negligence of immigration law enforcement and bolstering the Stop Sanctuary Policies and Protect Americans Act (S. 2146), of which he is a lead cosponsor, as a small step in the right direction. In addition to stripping certain federal funds from sanctuary jurisdictions, the legislation also incorporates critical elements of Kate’s Law, which Sen. Cruz introduced earlier this year, by imposing a five-year mandatory minimum sentence on any alien who illegally reenters the country after having been convicted of an aggravated felony or two prior illegal reentry offenses.

“This class of illegal aliens has a special disregard and disdain for our nation’s laws. And, too often, these offenders also have serious rap sheets… We must send the message that defiance  of our laws will no longer be tolerated—whether it’s by the sanctuary cities themselves or the illegal reentry offenders that they harbor,” Sen. Cruz said. “The problem of illegal immigration in this country will never be solved until we demonstrate to the American people that we are serious about securing the border and enforcing our immigration laws.  This bill is just a small step, but at least it’s a small step in the right direction.”

In his speech today, Sen. Cruz recounted an exchange he had at a hearing this summer with a senior Obama official regarding the lack of this Administration’s immigration enforcement.  The exchange revealed how little the official knew about the number of criminal illegal aliens the Obama Administration was releasing on a daily basis. That exchange can be viewed here.

Sen. Cruz’s speech can be watched here and read in its entirety below.

“Mr. President, the American people have demanded for years that the federal government faithfully enforce our nation’s immigration laws.

“Americans are tired of seeing their laws flouted and their communities plagued by the horrible crime that typically accompanies illegal immigration.

“But for too long, the pleas of the American people on this issue have gone unheeded here in Washington. 

“You see, when it comes to the problem of illegal immigration, the political class and the business class—our nation’s elites—are of one mind:  they promise robust enforcement at some point in the future but only on the condition that the American people accept a pathway to citizenship now for the millions of illegal immigrants who are already in this country.

“Not wanting to be swindled, the American people wisely rejected this deal, which the Washington class calls ‘comprehensive immigration reform.’

“Of course, the elites don’t like this one bit.  So, instead, they’ve taken matters into their own hands:  They bend or ignore the law to make it more difficult for immigration enforcement officers to do their jobs.

“We’ve seen this repeatedly with the Obama Administration.  President Obama has illegally granted amnesty to millions of illegal immigrants with no statutory authorization whatsoever—even though before his reelection, the President assured the American people that he couldn’t do so without an Act of Congress.

“As President Obama said when asked about could he grant amnesty, ‘I am not an emperor.’ But yet, just a few months after saying he couldn’t do this because he was not an emperor, apparently he discovered he was an emperor because he did precisely what he acknowledged he lacked the constitutional authority to do.

“And although the Administration claims to be focusing its resources on deporting illegal immigrants with criminal records, it has adopted a policy where many illegal immigrants that the Administration deems to be low-priority will not be detained and deported but will be released back into our communities. 

“Remarkably, in the year 2013, the Obama Administration released from detention roughly 36,000 convicted criminal aliens who were actually awaiting the outcome of deportation proceedings.  These criminal aliens were responsible for 193 homicide convictions. They were responsible for 426 sexual assault convictions, 303 kidnapping convictions, 1,075 aggravated assault convictions, and 16,070 drunk driving convictions.

“All of this was on top of the additional 68,000 illegal immigrants with criminal convictions that the federal government encountered in 2013 but never took into custody for deportation.

“Dwell on those numbers for a moment. In one year the Obama Administration releases over 104,00 criminal illegal aliens, people who have come into this country illegally who have additional criminal convictions – murderers, rapists, thieves, drunk drivers. One wonders, what the Administration says to the mother of the child lost to a murderer released by the Obama Administration because they will not enforce the laws. One wonders what the Obama Administration says to the child of a man killed by a drunk driver released by the Obama Administration because they will not enforce our immigration laws. 

“And while this Administration’s refusal to enforce the laws is bad enough, the scandalously poor enforcement of our immigration laws is made much, much worse by the lawless actions of roughly 340 so-called ‘sanctuary jurisdictions’ across the country.

“Although these jurisdictions are more than happy — eager, even—to take federal dollars, they go out of their way to impede federal immigration enforcement by adopting policies that prohibit their law enforcement officers from cooperating with federal officers.  Some of the jurisdictions even refuse to honor requests from the federal government to temporarily hold a criminal alien until federal officers can take custody of the individual.    

“Not only are these sanctuary policies an affront to Rule of Law, they are extremely dangerous.

“According to a recent study by the Center for Immigration Studies, between January 1 and September 30, 2014—just a nine-month period—sanctuary jurisdictions released 9,295 alien offenders that the federal government was seeking to deport.  That is roughly 1,000 offenders a month that sanctuary jurisdictions were releasing to the people.

“Now of those 9,295, 62 percent had prior criminal histories or other public safety issues.

“And, amazingly, to underscore just how dangerous this is to the citizenry, 2,320 offenders were rearrested within the nine-month period for committing new crimes after they had already been released by the sanctuary jurisdiction. If that doesn’t embody lawlessness, it’s difficult to imagine what does. Jurisdictions that are releasing over and over again criminal illegal aliens, many of them violent criminal illegal aliens, and exposing the citizens who live at home to additional public safety risk, to additional terrorist risk.

“This same study found that the federal government was unable to re-apprehend the vast majority of the alien offenders released by the sanctuary jurisdictions—69 percent as of last year.

“Even Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson has admitted that these sanctuary policies are ‘unacceptable.’  ‘It is counterproductive to public safety,’ he said, ‘to have this level of resistance to working with our immigration enforcement personnel.’ I’m thrilled to hear the Secretary of Homeland Security say so out loud. I assume that means that the Obama Administration will be supporting the legislation. After all the Secretary of Homeland Security says it’s ‘unacceptable,’ that it is ‘counterproductive to publican safety.’ And yet, sadly the Obama Administration is not supporting the legislation before this body.

“Indeed, it has taken the tragic and terrible death of Kate Steinle to galvanize action here in Washington.  Kate died in the arms of her father on a San Francisco pier after being fatally shot  by an illegal alien who had several felony convictions and had been deported from the United States multiple times. 

“Her death is heartbreaking.  The Senate Judiciary Committee, we had the opportunity to hear from Kate Steinle’s family. The heartbreak is even more appalling because Kate’s killer had been released from custody—and not turned over to the federal government to be deported—because of San Francisco’s sanctuary policy. The city of San Francisco is proudly a sanctuary city. They say to illegal immigrants across the country and across the world, ‘come to San Francisco. We will protect you from federal immigration laws. We, the elected democratic leaders of this city, welcome illegal immigrants, including violent criminal illegal immigrants like the murderer who took Kate Steinle's life.’

“These policies are inexcusable.  They are a threat to the safety of the American people, and they need to end.

“That is why I am a proud to be one of the original cosponsors of the Stop Sanctuary Policies and Protect Americans Act, which strips certain federal funds, especially community development block grants, from jurisdictions that maintain these lawless policies. 

“If these jurisdictions insist on making it more difficult to remove criminal aliens from our communities, then these federal dollars should go, instead, to jurisdictions that will actually cooperate with the federal government, that are willing to enforce the law, rather than aid and abet the criminals.

“It makes no sense to continue sending federal money to local governments that intentionally make it more difficult and costly for the federal government to do its job.

“But this bill doesn’t just address sanctuary jurisdictions, it also addresses the problem of illegal immigrants who—like Kate Steinle’s killer—are deported but illegally reenter the country,  which is a felony.

“This class of illegal aliens has a special disregard and disdain for our nation’s law.  And, too often, these offenders also have serious rap sheets.

“In 2012, just over a quarter of the illegal aliens apprehended by Border Patrol had prior deportation orders—that’s an astounding 99,420 illegal aliens.

“And of the illegal reentry offenders who were actually prosecuted in fiscal year 2014—that’s just 16,556 offenders, but a fraction of those who committed the felony—the majority had extensive or recent criminal histories, and many were dangerous criminals.

“But even though the majority of offenders had serious criminal records, the average prison sentence was just 17 months—down from an average of 22 months in 2008.

“In fact, more than a quarter of illegal reentry offenders received a sentence below the guidelines range because the government sponsored the low sentence.

“Because we are failing to adequately deter illegal aliens who have already been deported from illegally reentering the country, I introduced Kate’s Law in the Senate.

“And I’d like to thank Senators Vitter and Grassley for working with me to incorporate Kate’s Law, elements of that law, into this bill.  I would also like to recognize and thank all of the original cosponsors of this bill, Senators Barrasso, Cornyn, Isakson, Johnson, Purdue, Rubio, Sullivan, and Toomey.   

“Now, because of this bill, any alien who illegally reenters the United States and has a prior aggravated felony conviction or two prior illegal reentry convictions will face a mandatory sentence of five years in prison.

“We must send the message that defiance of our laws will no longer be tolerated—whether it is by the sanctuary cities themselves or the illegal reentry offenders that they harbor.

“The problem of illegal immigration in this country will never be solved until we demonstrate to the American people that we are serious about securing the border and enforcing our immigration laws. Until we have a president willing to, and in fact committed to actually enforcing the laws and securing the borders. This bill is just a small step, but at least it is a step in the right direction.

“And yet, Mr. President, there will be two consequences from the vote this afternoon. The first, it will be an opportunity for our friends on the Democratic side of the aisle to declare to the  country on whose side they stand. More than a few Democratic senators when they are campaigning for reelection tell the voters they support securing the borders. More than a few Democratic senators tell the voters, ‘of course, we shouldn’t be releasing criminal illegal aliens.’ More than a few Democratic senators claim to have no responsibility for the 104,000 criminal illegal aliens released by the Obama Administration in the year 2013. These senators claim to have no responsibility for the murderer of Kate Steinle invited to San Francisco by that city’s sanctuary city policy. 

“Well, this vote today will be a moment of clarity. No Democratic senator will be able to go and tell his or her constituents, ‘I oppose sanctuary cities,’ ‘I support securing the borders,’ if they vote today in favor of sending federal taxpayer funds to subsidize the lawlessness of sanctuary cities. 

“You know, when the Senate Judiciary Committee heard testimony from families who had lost loved ones to violent criminal illegal aliens, one after the other after the other, children sexually abused and murders by violent illegal aliens, family members who’ve lost loved ones to drunk drivers illegally in this country. At the time, I asked the senior Obama Administration official for immigration enforcement how she would look in the eyes of those family members and justify releasing murderers and rapists and drunk drivers over and over and over again. 

“Indeed, at that hearing, I asked the Obama Administration head of immigration enforcement, ‘how many murderers did the Obama Administration release this week?’ Her answer: I don't know. I asked her, ‘how many rapists did the Obama Administration release this week?’ Her answer: I don't know. ‘How many drunk drivers?’ ‘I don't know.’ None of us should be satisfied with that answer, with a president and an Administration that refuses to enforce the laws, that is willfully and repeatedly releasing violent criminal illegal aliens into our communities and endangering the lives of our families and our children. 

“And for every Democratic senator this vote today is a simple decision, with whom do you stand? Do you stand with the violent criminal illegal aliens who are being released over and over again? Because, mind you, a vote ‘No’ is to say the next time, the next murderer like Kate Steinle’s murderer comes in, we shouldn’t have a mandatory five-year prison sentence, instead we should continue sanctuary cities that welcome and embrace them, until perhaps it is our family members that lose their lives. It is my hope that in this moment of clarity the Democratic members of this body will decide that they stand with the American people and not with the violent criminal illegal aliens. 

“It’s worth noting, by the way, the standard rhetorical device that so many Democratic senators use to say that not all illegal immigrants are criminals. Of course, they are not. We are a nation of immigrants, of men and women fleeing oppression and coming to seek freedom. But this bill doesn’t deal with all immigrants. It deals with one specific subset of immigrants: criminal illegal aliens. Those who come to this country illegally and also have additional criminal convictions, whether homicide, whether sexual assault, whether kidnapping or battery or drunk driving. If it is the Democrats’ position for partisan reasons that they would rather stand with violent criminal illegal aliens, that is a sad testament on where one of the two major political parties in this country stands today. And I suspect the voters who elected them would be more than a little surprised at how that jives with the rhetoric they use on the campaign trail. 

“If, as many observers predict, Democratic senators choose to value partisan loyalty to the Obama White House over protecting the lives of the children who will be murdered by violent criminal illegal aliens in sanctuary cities if this body does not act, if they value partisan loyalty over that, and if they vote on a party-line vote, as many observers have predicted, that will provide a moment of clarity. 

“But I will also suggest, it will underscore the need for Republican leadership to bring this issue up again, not in the context where Democrats can blithely block it, obstructing any meaningful reforms to protect our safety, to secure the border, to enforce the law, to stop violent criminal illegal aliens from threatening our safety, but rather for Republican leadership to bring it up in the context of a must-pass bill. To bring it up and attach it to legislation that will actually pass in law. I’m very glad we are voting on this this week. It is one of the few things in the last 10 months we have voted on that actually responds to the concerns of the men and women who elected us. 

“So I salute leadership for bringing up this vote, but if a party-line vote blocks it, then the next step is not simply to have a vote. The next step is to attach this legislation to must-pass legislation and to actually fix the problem. 

“You know, Mr. President, leadership loves to speak of what they call governing. And in Washington, governing is always set at least an octave lower. Governing. Well, when it comes to stopping sanctuary cities and protecting our safety, we need some governing. We need to actually fix the problem rather than a show-vote. 

“So my first entreaty is to our Democratic friends across the aisle, regardless of areas where we different on partisan politics, this should be an easy vote. Do you stand with the men and women of your state or do you stand with violent criminal illegal aliens? We will find out in just a couple of hours. But my second entreaty is to Republican leadership that if Democrats are partisans first rather than protecting the men and women they represent, that it is up to Republican leadership to attach this to a must-pass bill, to actually pass it into law and solve the problem, not to talk about it but to do it. It is my hope that's what all of us do together. I yield the floor.”

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