- - Thursday, June 29, 2017

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

On a Thursday morning in January 2015, Grant Ronnebeck, a 21-year-old convenience store clerk, was working the graveyard shift at a Quick Trip in Mesa, Arizona. Just before 4 a.m., an angry customer walked in, demanded a pack of cigarettes, and dumped a handful of change on the store counter. When Grant attempted to count the money, the man pointed a gun at Grant’s head. Grant immediately handed over the cigarettes. The man murdered Grant, took the cigarettes, and casually walked out of the store.

This is a tragic and heartbreaking story by any account, but it is unthinkable to realize that it was absolutely preventable. The perpetrator, Apolinar Altamirano, was an illegal immigrant with a long criminal record who had been released from federal custody while awaiting deportation proceedings. Had Altamirano remained in custody and been swiftly deported, he and Grant Ronnebeck would never have encountered each other and Grant would still be with us today.

Sadly, this isn’t the only instance in which an innocent American has been the victim of a crime by an illegal immigrant. In 2014, Mesa police officer Brandon Mendoza was killed in a wrong-way car crash by an illegal immigrant driving under the influence of drugs and alcohol. In 2015, Kate Steinle was killed by a stray bullet fired by an illegal immigrant in possession of a stolen firearm. In January 2016, Sarah Root was killed by an illegal immigrant who was street racing while drunk in Omaha, Nebraska. In Sarah’s case, her killer, Eswin G. Mejia, was released after posting a small bond and was never heard from again. These are three high-profile cases that many Americans are familiar with. But they are not the only ones.

Despite tragic stories like these, the Obama administration promoted policies that circumvented many of our immigration laws, allowing thousands of violent criminals to return to our communities. Worse still, cities around the country implemented “sanctuary policies,” providing safe haven to all illegal immigrants, including the criminally violent. Actions like these have directly led to the demise of our immigration system and put illegal immigrants ahead of the safety of Americans. If we are going to regain control over our immigration system, it is time to ensure policies like these no longer remain in place. That is why I am very pleased to have co-authored H.R.3003, the No Sanctuary for Criminals Act, which includes a section specifically addressing illegals who commit the types of crimes perpetrated in Grant, Kate, Brandon and Sarah’s deaths.

The No Sanctuary for Criminals Act will finally put penalties in place for cities, states, and local law enforcement agencies that implement sanctuary policies by disqualifying them for certain federal grants. No jurisdiction should have the opportunity to benefit from federal taxpayer dollars while blatantly violating federal law and endangering the lives of Americans. It will also place responsibility on those jurisdictions who release illegal immigrants after U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement asks for them to be detained by allowing victims of crimes committed by these individuals to directly sue the jurisdiction. Finally, H.R.3003 would ensure that illegal immigrants who wind up in custody for crimes will not be released back onto our streets and will not have the chance to commit additional crimes.

I am thankful that House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte recognized the need for this important legislation and was willing to work with me and Grant’s father, Steve Ronnebeck, to ensure its passage in the U.S. House of Representatives. I am also thankful for President Trump’s commitment to immigration enforcement in the early months of his presidency. Earlier this year, President Trump signed an executive order which eliminated catch and release and sanctuary city policies. H.R.3003 codifies the policies in his executive order to ensure no future president can unilaterally change them. I look forward to H.R. 3003’s swift consideration in the U.S. Senate and being signed into law by President Trump.

• Andy Biggs is a Republican U.S. representative from Arizona.

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