"Trump's policy goals will, if fully implemented, take a wrecking ball to the Statue of Liberty."
—Frank Sharry, America's Voice
The U.S. House helped advance a central plank of President Donald Trump's agenda on Thursday by passing two immigration laws that were swiftly denounced by critics as "xenophobic" and "riddled with constitutional violations."
The Washington Post summarized the bills:
One bill, known as "Kate's Law," is named after Kate Steinle, the 32-year-old woman who was shot and killed in 2015 by an illegal immigrant who had been deported five times. The bill enhances penalties for convicted and deported criminals who reenter the United States illegally.
The other bill, called the No Sanctuary for Criminals Act, would bar some federal grants from so-called sanctuary cities that do not cooperate with federal immigration enforcement authorities and allow victims of crimes committed by illegal immigrants to sue those cities.
While the Trump administration and House Republicans framed the measures as necessary for public safety, Democrats decried the bills as "draconian" and argued that they demonize those entering the country to reunite with their families.
.@RepCardenas: "The bills we're talking about aren't just anti-immigrant, anti-undocumented ... they are anti-American."— Univision News (@UnivisionNews) June 29, 2017
Speaking on the House floor ahead of the vote, Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) called the legislation "dangerous" and "anti-immigrant," and charged that the bills "perpetuate the fiction that immigrants are somehow inherently criminal. Nothing could be further from the truth."
In their statement condemning both measures, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) argued they would "undercut law enforcement's ability to keep communities safe, undermine Constitutional protections, and criminalize immigrants."
"American families deserve real solutions to our broken immigration system—that means fixing our immigration system, not playing politics by scapegoating immigrant communities and threatening the effectiveness of local law enforcement," said Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D-NM), the chair of the CHC.
Immigration rights groups and lawyers argued similarly that the two bills are little more than attempts to capitalize on the anti-immigrant hysteria spread by the president and his allies.
"The bills do nothing to improve or overhaul our outdated immigration system, but rather are designed to aid and abet Trump's radical agenda to kick out and keep out as many immigrants and refugees as possible," America's Voice said in a statement.
Frank Sharry, executive director of America's Voice, added that the House bills embody "a xenophobic ultra-nationalism that pits Us vs. Them in a zero sum game."
"Trump's policy goals—deporting millions, banning refugees and Muslims, building walls and closing gates—will, if fully implemented, take a wrecking ball to the Statue of Liberty," Sharry concluded.
Lorella Praeli, director of immigration policy and campaigns at the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), argued that contrary to the claims of the Trump administration, "Kate's Law and the No Sanctuary for Criminals Act will make our communities less safe by undermining the trust that law enforcement builds with its communities—citizen and immigrant alike."
"The true intent of these bills," Praeli concluded, "is to empower Trump's deportation force and anti-immigrant agenda."