Two Orlando-area Congressional Democrats broke with their party this week to vote in favor of H.R. 3004, also known as Kate’s Law, which increases the penalties for deported felons who illegally return to the United States.
Kate’s Law passed on Thursday on a mostly party-line vote. Murphy and Demings were among only 24 Democrats to vote in favor of the bill; Rep. Charlie Crist was the only other Florida Democrat to vote yes. The bill was named for Kate Steinle, a woman who was killed in San Francisco by an illegal immigrant with multiple felony convictions who had been deported five times prior to Steinle’s death.
Thursday also saw the House vote on H.R. 3003, which cracked down on sanctuary city policies. Both Murphy and Demings voted against H.R. 3003.
Alex Leary with the Tampa Bay Times speculated that the fact that Murphy represents a swing district could have influenced her vote. Murphy was first elected to Congress in 2016, defeating Republican incumbent John Mica with just over 51 percent of the vote. She’s already drawn a challenger for 2018, Republican State Rep. Mike Miller, who announced his candidacy on Thursday.
Murphy, whose family fled Vietnam when she was an infant, released the following statement regarding her vote:
As an immigrant and refugee myself, I believe the United States should welcome those from other countries who seek opportunity and flee persecution, which is why I strongly support bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform, but I also believe that individuals who repeatedly break our laws must be appropriately punished. In my view, Kate’s Law would give judges the discretion to appropriately sentence those undocumented immigrants who have committed serious or multiple criminal offenses in the United States, been deported, and then attempted to return to this country in violation of our laws. If this bill were to become law, I trust judges would use that discretion wisely, examining the nature of the underlying crimes and all other relevant circumstances.
Demings is the former Orlando Chief of Police, and her law enforcement background may have been a factor in her votes. She posted several comments on her Facebook and Twitter accounts regarding her opposition to H.R. 3003, the sanctuary cities measure, but so far seems to have been silent regarding Kate’s Law.
HR3003 impedes on law enforcement’s ability to do its job &
creates an environment that will erode trust between police & their communities
— Rep. Val Demings (@RepValDemings) June 29, 2017
Murphy and Demings are facing backlash from liberals for their votes. The Orlando Weekly‘s headline attacked the two Congresswomen for voting for “an incredibly terrible anti-immigration bill.” Francesca Menes, policy director of the Florida Immigrant Coalition, denounced Democrats who voted for Kate’s Law, calling the bill “draconian” and an attempt to “legitimize Trump’s hateful rhetoric,” and expressing disappointment in Murphy, Demings, and Crist.
Follow Sarah Rumpf on Twitter: @rumpfshaker.