Kate’s Law: What you need to know about how it would affect penalties for illegal reentry crimes by Dallas immigration crime defense lawyer John Helms.
Kate’s Law is a bill in Congress named after Kate Steinle, a young woman who was senselessly murdered in San Francisco by a man with a long and serious criminal history, who had been previously deported from the United States, and who had returned multiple times. Kate’s Law has passed the House of Representatives, but it must also pass the Senate and be signed by the President in order to become law. It is expected to be difficult for the bill to pass the Senate, reports John Helms a Dallas immigration crime defense lawyer.
You may have heard that it makes penalties for immigration crimes “tougher.” It actually applies only to the crime of illegal reentry after deportation. It is designed to deter people who have been previously deported, like the man who murdered Kate Steinle, from coming back.
Here is what the bill, in its current form, actually does:
- Increases the MAXIMUM prison term for people who have been deported and reenter the United States after having committed certain types of crimes.
The maximum prison term is the longest prison term the law allows for conviction of a crime–in this case, the crime of illegal reentry after deportation. Based on my experience, these aspects will have little effect unless the United States Sentencing Commission changes the Federal Sentencing Guidelines. This is because the recommended range of punishment under the current Sentencing Guidelines for these categories is usually less than the CURRENT maximum penalty. Therefore, raising the maximum penalty will not affect most sentences for this category.
- It provides a ten-year sentence for terrorists who have been deported and returned to the United States, which is added onto the sentence for any other crime. This provision applies to someone who was previously removed or deported on the basis of involvement with terrorism. I do not know what the actual numbers are, but prosecutions for terrorists reentering the United States are very rare, and judges already have tools to deal with this situation. I do not think this provision adds much other than something politicians can use to say they are tough on terrorism.
- It provides a mandatory minimum sentence (the least you can get) of 5 years in prison for those who have been convicted of illegal reentry twice before. Again, this is not much of a change in practice, because the number of people who are CONVICTED of the federal crime of illegal reentry after deportation (as opposed to just being deported) three times is very low. Also, under the current law, people who are convicted three times will likely get a sentence in the five-year range or higher anyway.
- It provides a mandatory minimum sentence (the least you can get) of 5 years for people who illegally reenter the United States after having been convicted of an “aggravated felony.” This part is likely to be the biggest change and to be the most controversial. This is because the term “aggravated felony” in the immigration context is much broader than it sounds and because it is a vague and confusing term. The United States Sentencing Guidelines define “aggravated felony” in a more clear and logical way than the Immigration and Nationality Act. From the current text of the Kate’s Law bill, the five-year mandatory minimum sentence will apply to “aggravated felonies” as defined by the Immigration and Nationality Act.
As I mentioned before, despite its name, Kate’s Law is not actually a law yet. Therefore, it should not affect people who have already been charged with illegal reentry after deportation. It should only affect people who are charged after it becomes a law and goes into effect, if it ever does.
For the most part, even if it does become law, in its current form, Kate’s Law is unlikely to have a significant effect on most people charged with illegal reentry unless they have a serious prior criminal conviction.
The criminal immigration laws are very complicated, and they change often. This article has been a very general overview, and anyone who is charged with illegal reentry should hire a lawyer who has substantial experience in this area in order to protect his or her rights. Call 214-666-8010 or visit Dallas immigration crime defense lawyer John Helms on the web if you or someone you know is charged with the immigration crime of illegal reentry.