Two murders, same reason

Jul 13, 2015
Opinion Editorial
By Rep. Lou Barletta (PA-11), in the Hazleton Standard Speaker

When the news first broke about the heartbreaking murder of 32-year-old Kate Steinle in San Francisco earlier this month, the first person I thought of was Derek Kichline, formerly of Hazleton.

The connection was made, not because the two knew each other, or were in any way related, but because the existence of so-called sanctuary cities directly contributed to their premature and violent deaths.

The term “sanctuary city” has no firm legal definition, however in practice it has come to refer to any locality which resists or bans enforcement of federal immigration laws, or flatly refuses to cooperate with immigration officials. They have spread to places across the country — including Philadelphia and Pittsburgh here in Pennsylvania – and now number more than 200 nationally, according to the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency. Sanctuary cities are a scourge and are safe havens for everyone but law-abiding citizens.

In Kate Steinle’s case, she was unfortunate enough to be enjoying a walk along San Francisco’s Pier 14 with her father. When the fatal shot rang out, she fell to the ground, crying, “Dad, help me, help me.” She later died at a local hospital, the victim of an illegal immigrant who had racked up seven felonies and been deported five times, according to law enforcement officials.

The accused killer, Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez, has indicated that he settled in San Francisco after he illegally re-entered the United States because of its lax policies toward illegal immigrants.

In 2006 while I was mayor of Hazleton, Derek Kichline, a 29-year-old father of three young children, was working on his pickup truck when he was shot and killed. His accused killer was also illegally present in this country and had previously been arrested at least a half dozen times.

Those brushes with the law occurred in New York City, another notorious sanctuary city, which released him without regard to federal immigration laws. That violent crime was what compelled me to become fully engaged with the problem of illegal immigration in the first place.

Though Kate Steinle’s murder is only the most recent high-profile national example, and Derek Kichline’s death is the most personal for me, I have long argued that sanctuary cities must be eliminated. In 2011, I introduced the Mobilizing Against Sanctuary Cities Act, which would deny all federal funding to sanctuary cities. At the time, Congress lacked the political will to pass the bill, and so I have returned to make the argument again.

The Mobilizing Against Sanctuary Cities Act, which I have now introduced, would prohibit any federal funding for a minimum period of one year to any state or local government with a policy or law that prevents it from assisting immigration authorities in enforcing federal immigration law.

The legislation will direct the attorney general to compile an annual list of such cities and issue a report on any particular state or locality upon request from a member of Congress. A state or local government would only regain federal funding eligibility after the attorney general certifies that its laws and policies are in compliance with federal immigration statutes.

Certainly, supporters of places like San Francisco argue that their policies prevent the illegal immigration population from become victims themselves, when in fact the opposite is true. Sanctuary cities create safety zones for drug cartels, gangs and other criminal elements to operate, directly impacting the immigrant population and all residents of such a locality.

Sanctuary cities truly benefit only one key demographic: illegal immigrant criminals. Headlines describing the murder of a beautiful young woman in the prime of her life have certainly seized the attention of the public, but homicide is not the only problem created.

The bottom line is this: how many murders of innocent citizens are acceptable before we finally stop the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policies of localities when it comes to illegal immigration? We hear an awful lot about compassion for the people who break our immigration laws, but where is the outrage when an illegal immigrant commits a violent act that robs a family of one of its cherished members?

We must make sure that we’re enforcing the immigration laws that we already have. Sanctuary cities are dangerous to public safety and we should stop supporting them with federal tax dollars.

It has been nearly impossible in recent weeks to pick up a newspaper or watch television without seeing Kate Steinle’s smiling face looking back. And when I see her, I also think of Derek Kichline. For their memories, it is past time to state once and for all that every life matters.

U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta, a Republican, rep resents Pennsylvania’s 11th Congressional District.


Find the op-ed here.