U.S. Rep. Doug Collins, R-Gainesville, joined House Speaker Paul Ryan and other federal officials Thursday to promote two immigration bills that President Donald Trump promises to sign once they reach his desk.
Ryan called Collins to the podium during his weekly news conference to talk about the two immigration bills — Kate’s Law and No Sanctuary for Criminals Act, both of which the House approved later in the day.
The first bill would add more severe penalties for repeat illegal entry into the United States, while the second would attempt to withhold federal funding to jurisdictions that don’t cooperate with federal immigration enforcement in so-called “sanctuary cities.” Both bills now shift to the Senate.
Identifying himself as the son of a state trooper and supporter of law enforcement, Collins staked a strong stand against sanctuary cities.
“This law is actually just saying, if you choose to put politics before people’s safety, then you’re not going to get the public funds, you’re not going to get the grants that you are supposed to be using to enforce the law,” said Collins, vice chairman of the House Republican Conference, and a member of the House Judiciary Committee that favorably recommended the legislation to the full House.
During last year’s campaign, Trump often railed against sanctuary cities. He also recounted many times the shooting death of young woman by a Mexican national with seven prior convictions who’d been deported five times — giving rise to Kate’s Law, which calls for tougher penalties for convicted and deported criminals who re-enter the country.
The Georgia Association of Latino Elected Officials took the position that the bills would undermine public safety and harm Gainesville’s economy.
GALEO Executive Director Jerry Gonzalez said the legislation would further criminalize immigrants and likely incarcerate more of them.
“Gainesville’s economy depends upon immigrant labor, and the poultry industry would not survive if immigrants were deported,” Gonzalez said. “These initiatives would further diminish the immigrant community’s interaction with law enforcement and would diminish public safety as crime and suspicious activity would go unreported.”
The Gainesville Police Department and Hall County Sheriff’s Office did not respond to The Times’ request for comment on the legislation.
In comments picked up by the national media, Collins reminded everyone of an observation made by one of the country’s founding fathers — John Adams — who said this country is “a nation of laws and not men.”
“And today is a good day for the rule of law,” Collins said. “Today is when we go back and we state these are the laws.”
Referring to localities around the country that have established sanctuary cities, Collins said choices made by one locality affect others.
“This is not simply isolated in a vacuum situation,” Collins said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.