The phrase “Kate’s Law” has been trending all over social media today. But what exactly is Kate’s Law? In brief, it’s a bill named after Kate Steinle, a woman who died in July 2015 after being shot by an undocumented immigrant, Jose Ines Garcia Zarate. The shooting was recently deemed an accident, and Garcia Zarate was not charged for murder.
Garcia Zarate, who was formerly known as Juan Francsisco Lopez-Sanchez, had been deported from the U.S. five times before the fatal shooting. He had been convicted of multiple felonies and was released from prison a few months before the incident, despite federal immigration agents’ requests that he be detained for deportation.
After Steinle’s death, many conservative politicians, including then-presidential candidate Donald Trump, used the shooting to advocate for harsher immigration policies.
They called for the deportation of illegal immigrants with criminal records and the construction of the wall on the U.S. border with Mexico. Fox News host Bill O’Reilly originally proposed Kate’s Law to his viewers five days after Steinle’s death. He urged his audience to call Congress and request a law that would impose a mandatory sentence of at least five years for immigrants who had been deported and convicted of a felony.
A House bill was soon drafted with 45 co-sponsors, and on July 14th of that year Senator Ted Cruz drafted a version for the Senate. The bill was passed in the House, but it has been delayed in the Senate.
If Kate’s Law becomes enacted, it could have a drastic effect on the criminal justice system.
Molly Gill, a criminal affairs counsel at Families Against Mandatory Minimums, told The Atlantic that Kate’s Law would triple the time that illegal immigrants are detained before deportation. According to a press release from FAMM, the law would cost billions of dollars to enforce due to the increased sentence time. In the press release, Gill noted that while Kate’s Law might prevent some violent criminals from entering the U.S., it also could result in nonviolent immigrants being detained for long periods of time.
What happened to Steinle is tragic, but cracking down on immigration won’t stop these things from happening. In fact, the bill fails to note that the majority of murders in the U.S. are committed by American citizens, and that statistically, immigrants are less likely to commit crimes as compared to the general population.
At the end of the day, “Kate’s Law” feels like an alarmist and reactionary policy that doesn’t take the actual facts into account. And real people will be affected.