The Right Balance for Sanctuary Cities

The horrific slaying of Kathryn Steinle in San Francisco by a convicted felon who illegally crossed the border five times shocked our community, our state and our nation.

What is so painful to me is that I do not believe that it was ever the intent of California law to allow a dangerous felon to receive sanctuary.

A straightforward reading of the summary of the TRUST Act is what leads me to this belief. However, the text of the law does not ensure that serious or violent felons are detained, and that is what I hope will be addressed by the state.

In the meantime, Senator Feinstein and I are exploring ways to help ensure that a tragedy like this never happens again.

But we must also not allow this tragedy to eliminate sanctuary cities, which have proven to be important for the safety of our neighborhoods by promoting trust between residents and law enforcement. As former San Jose Police Chief Rob Davis explained back in 2004: "We have been fortunate enough to solve some terrible cases because of the willingness of illegal immigrants to step forward, and if they saw us as part of the immigration services, I just don't know if they'd do that anymore."

As we see Republicans playing politics with this tragedy, it is important to note that it was House Republicans who blocked the comprehensive immigration reform bill that the Senate approved overwhelmingly more than two years ago.

Now their inaction is coming home to roost. This bipartisan legislation would have made our country and communities safer by making enormous investments in border security - adding 20,000 more Border Patrol agents, increasing surveillance, and hiring additional prosecutors and judges to boost prosecutions of illegal border crossings. The measure would also have made clear that serious or violent felons will never get a pathway to citizenship or legal status.

We cannot allow this tragedy to become an excuse for prejudice and racism. We must make it clear that the disgraceful bigotry against Latinos that is being spouted in the Republican presidential primary, adding to the already horrible things that have been stated by Republicans in Congress, is unacceptable.

We must remember we are a nation of immigrants and descendants of immigrants whose bravery and work ethic made this nation what it is from our earliest days. One of the immigrant workers who was laying stonework in the lobby of the new Trump hotel on Pennsylvania Avenue put it very eloquently this week: "We're all here working very hard to build a better life for our families."

Let us ensure that sanctuary cities remain, but that no sanctuary is ever given to serious or violent felons. Let us finally pass immigration reform, which is a crying need in our country. By supporting balanced, common-sense policies, we can honor the contributions of the millions of immigrant families who make our country better, while detaining and deporting the dangerous few who would do our country harm.