Kate’s Law: Smoke and Mirrors

Politicians are nothing if not predictable. Whenever a tragedy occurs they are all too eager to pronounce how their proposed law will ensure such things never happen again. Unfortunately this is never the case. Whatever “law” they have proposed, were it in place at the time of the tragedy, actually would have done nothing to prevent it. For example in the wake of the Newtown Connecticut shootings there were calls to ban “assault rifles” and increase waiting periods. Even if one is inclined to believe such measures can reduce violence they have to admit it would have done nothing to have stopped that particular shooting: no “assault” rifles were used and the perpetrator used the legally acquired weapons owned by mother (whom he killed to get at them). Perhaps a law that makes it illegal to kill someone and take their guns could have prevented that tragedy. Why has no one thought of that yet!

Another recent tragedy has sparked yet another wave of legislative inanity. The tragic death of Kate Steinle this past July in San Francisco by an illegal immigrant (an apparent accidental shooting) has prompted several new proposed laws in Congress, the most prominent one being “Kate’s Law” (of interest: no gun laws are proposed because the weapon used was stolen from a federal agent’s car and subsequently found in the trash by the shooter). This law seeks to increase jail time to a minimum of 5 years for illegal immigrants who re-enter after deportation. The suspect in the case (Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez) is a 5 time deportee. He has been described as a “convicted felon” but the only “felonies” committed are entering the US illegally after being deported as well as some low level non-violent drug offenses. A model citizen he is not, but he’s hardly Tony Montana.

People believe a 5-year sentence would have prevented this tragedy because he was released in March 2015 after having served 4 years for re-entering the US after being deported. So yes, I suppose technically had the 5-year minimum been in place this tragic shooting would not have occurred. But this is just playing games on the margins. Who’s to say had he been released 1 year later that the same thing would not have occurred then? People would be beating their chests for mandatory 6-year sentences! Yes, that will solve it. If extending jail time is an effective method to prevent violent deaths then why not also argue that all convicted felons (irrespective of immigration/citizenship status) have a year added to their sentence? Or two? Or ten? Or perhaps life in jail? There is no logical divide between “Kate’s Law” and a proposal for perpetual jail time as a method to prevent crime.

The real problem here is not the length of the prison sentence but rather a disconnect between the duties of local law enforcement and federal immigration enforcement (ICE: Immigration and Customs Enforcement). Legally Francisco should have been deported after his sentence was up, however San Francisco County denied the request to turn him over and he was released. This is where cities like San Francisco get the moniker of “sanctuary cities.” Unsurprisingly such simple labels do not tell the whole story. “Sanctuary cities” as such do not exist (in that they harbor actual violent criminals). Whenever a case involves an actual violent felon all such cities have complied with ICE requests for detention. But violent convicted felons who are also illegal immigrants are quite rare. Most immigrants who find themselves temporarily locked up are guilty of low-level misdemeanors or less. Local authorities simply do not have the manpower, resources or money to cooperate with ICE on every single arrest of someone who may possibly have a questionable immigration status. ICE basically expects local agencies to feed, house, and manage every single person they arrest who might possibly be an illegal immigrant while providing zero monetary compensation for such efforts. This is what is known as an “unfunded mandate.” And if the city does hold someone for ICE for days on end and they turn out to not be an illegal then quite often the city gets sued. Do you think ICE is there to help them defend against that suit? There’s no free lunch. If the Feds want help in enforcing immigration laws they need to pay for that help.

The irony here is that the Federal government poisoned our neighbor’s well and now feigns outrage when those neighbors come here to use our well. The US created this immigration “crisis” through their policies of agricultural subsidies that allow US farmers to dump cheap goods into Latin America. This destroyed those agricultural markets, put their farmers out of work, and ultimately leads to the unemployed looking for work in the US. Interventionism, whether domestic (subsidies) or international, always results in unintended outcomes (blowback). The solution is not more interventionism but to undo the original intervention.